Digital Health Progress, Clinical Informatics and Experiences from Industry Leaders
Released in 2020, The Changing Face of Clinical Careers research was conducted in conjunction with Creative Careers in Medicine and Wavelength International to establish what drives medical, nursing and allied health clinicians to move outside of traditional clinical roles. Following on from research we conducted last year, we wanted to investigate more specifically why clinicians have made the move into the digital health workforce.
We asked several digital health leaders across a cross-section of allied health, medicine and nursing to participate in a brief survey to outline how they progressed into these roles, around how the hospitals they work for have implemented recent technological advancements into the health service. We would like to thank Aaron Jones, Chief Nursing and Midwifery Information Officer at Sydney Local Health District; Kudzai Kanhutu, Deputy Chief Medical Information Officer at Melbourne Health; as well as the anonymous responses we received.
Progression into hospital and health service digital health leadership roles
How did you progress into your Chief Allied Health / Medical / Nursing Information role?
“I have been in the Chief Nursing and Midwifery Information Officer (CNMIO) role for 5 years. Leading up to that role I was in various executive nursing roles. My role prior to the CNMIO role was as the Clinical Informatics Nurse Manager for Sydney Local Health District which provided me with excellent understanding of the professional and contemporary issues related to digital health technology as it relates to nursing and midwifery workflows”. – Aaron Jones
“I was finishing my infectious diseases training and saw how hard it was to get a job as an ID consultant, so I was at a juncture where I had to explore my options and interests. I applied for the funding for the telehealth project and got it, so that’s how it all began. The team then built up over time and I grew my knowledge in the health IT space, so when the Deputy CMIO role became available I was in a great position to apply for it. It was great because I was able to keep a nice balance in workload, still working clinically in refugee health and infectious diseases but getting the digital and health IT experience”. – Kudzai Kanhutu
“I worked in the Clinical Informatics space (within clinical pharmacy services) for a number of years before a restructure in the area/hiring of additional staff as part of a project led me into this role”. – Anonymous response
What skills and personal attributes do you believe clinicians require to move into such a role?
“Executive level experience, Post graduate qualifications at a masters level (not necessarily in digital health but related to nursing/healthcare), Broad understanding of digital health technology implementation and project management, extensive clinical experience in a broad range of clinical specialities, important to understand nursing and midwifery workflows, excellent, high level communication skills, broad understanding of contract and procurement processes, clinical education experience, and experience in understanding data and other informatics related theory/knowledge”. – Aaron Jones
“Clinical background, project management skills, and the ability to engage clinicians (both junior and senior)”. – Anonymous Response
Do you think the skills that you learnt to then put yourself into the CMIO role, can they only be learnt on the job or do you think there are pathways for people to be able to get those skills to then progress into these types of positions?
“There are definitely pathways that exist at the moment, but over time I think this will change. Whilst the space is still developing a lot of people in similar roles start the way I have, there is an interest in digital health or you are a “techy” person, and you can get a space in one of the EMR teams. After initially joining the telehealth team I learnt so much on the job and developed my skills particularly in user experience, user design, networking software, and non-IT related as well which really gave me the knowledge base to be able to move into the CMIO role. We could hire people with similar backgrounds to myself and those with specific qualifications in what we needed, like a PhD in Informatics for example, to build a great team.
Moving forward as more professional courses and certifications are developed and the space grows; I think organisations will start looking more for these types of qualifications when appointing to an EMR or digital team. On the job experience will be important but having a specific digital qualification will be equally valuable.” – Kudzai Kanhutu
Impact and expansion within health services
Do you think having a dedicated clinician in this type of role has helped health services progress their digital health strategy?
“Yes – definitely. The role has the ability to speak both “clinical” and “IT” so acts as a conduit between the technology and the clinical workforce. The role also helps understand possible challenges or barriers when technology is being implemented”. – Aaron Jones
“In many ways it helps, but in others it does hinder it. In terms of helping the project, people know and trust clinicians that are already working within the health service. This has helped create a bridge between the other clinicians and analysts rolling out the EMR; helping to assist manage any complaints or queries about the interface or tools. On the other hand, clinicians that move into digital roles and step away from clinical work are often judged harshly; it is often misunderstood by peers why people are moving into an “IT” role. I am fortunate that I have a foot in both doors still, I work clinically and have been working on the digital heath project. At the moment this is not always the case, and I’m hoping we can create a culture where more balance like this exists. I do think this will take time though, there aren’t many mentors to guide you through the difficulties of switching between your clinical and digital hat; I’ve really had to teach myself through the process and use the support of peers in the same position”. – Kudzai Kanhutu
“Yes, having representative clinical leads provides a contact point/bridge between clinicians and non-clinicians”. – Anonymous Response
How do you see the digital health teams within health services expanding over the next five years?
“New clinical roles are emerging and will continue to emerge as digital health systems are implemented. In particular, more roles that will assist with digital health adoption and support will become a high priority following increased investment into technology”. – Aaron Jones
“As we transition to business as usual the team is now shrinking. I think the problem every EMR implementation team has is that during the project there are lots of people on the ground working on it, but once it is live, the budget or funding doesn’t allow for the same size team to maintain it. Of course, the definition of a project is that it must end. However, the challenge is whether organisations can then maintain the strategic focus and momentum to reap the longer-term rewards of digital transformation”. – Kudzai Kanhutu (post the Parkville EMR Project going live in 2020)
“To have more clinicians involved in the informatics space to be able to provide input into uptake and improvements of digital systems”. – Anonymous Response
If you are in a Chief or Deputy Information Officer role specific to allied health, nursing or medicine and would like to participate in our survey click here.