Feb. 28, 2012 — Health organizations are worried that there aren’t enough people with skills to handle the volume and complexity of health information as use of electronic health records (EHR) grows, according to information released this week by leaders of the PwC US Health Information Technology practice during the annual conference of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.
A hiring spree has been underway to employ health informaticists with both clinical and technical skills. According to PwC, health organizations plan to increase informatics staffing levels over the next two years, with particular emphasis on people to help with the technical aspects of EHR implementation, data integration, and interoperability.
Health informatics is an emerging, fast-growing professional field that is expected to become even more important as health outcomes, or pay for performance, become the basis of reimbursement to doctors, hospitals, drug companies, medical devices companies and other healthcare services. Health organizations see the analysis and use of health information as the key to improving patient outcomes, proactively identifying chronic and high-risk patients, managing patient population health and effectively managing their financial performance.
Later this month, PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) will publish a comprehensive report on the state of clinical informatics in the health industry. In developing the report, PwC’s HRI conducted a survey of 600 health organization professionals from hospitals, health systems, health insurers and pharmaceutical and life sciences companies. The PwC survey found:
Seventy percent of health insurers, 48 percent of hospitals and 39 percent of pharmaceutical / life sciences companies plan to increase hiring of technical informatics professionals over the next two years.
Four in ten hospital and provider respondents surveyed said that lack of skilled informatics staff is a barrier to developing a comprehensive clinical informatics program.
Half of hospitals and physician respondents said that misalignment of clinical and technology teams is an organizational barrier, something they will need to address to incorporate sophisticated analytics into clinicians’ everyday work.
The American Board of Medical Specialties approved clinical informatics as a board-certified medical subspecialty in September 2011. Still, big changes are required in the medical and nursing school curricula to provide students with insight and understanding of how to develop and use clinical data, says PwC. Informaticists are not the only ones who need core informatics competencies; clinicians who deliver care to patients need them, too. Students need to learn to apply quantitative knowledge, reasoning, and informatics tools to diagnostic and therapeutic clinical decision making, but physicians with whom students work during residency may not be familiar with these informatics skills needed for emerging care models.
PwC’s report, due to be published later this month, will look at the overall state of clinical informatics, the mix of clinical and technical staffing and needs, organizational barriers to development of a comprehensive informatics program as well as a deep exploration of how each segment of the health industry – hospitals, insurers, and pharmaceutical and life sciences companies – plan to use informatics as the basis for reimbursement, patient engagement and innovation through research or new business opportunities.
Source: Pricewaterhouse Coopers