HIMAA warns of workforce crisis putting eHealth at risk
A workforce crisis facing the health information management profession is placing the future of eHealth reform at serious risk, according to the Health Information Management Association of Australia (HIMAA).
HIMAA president Sallyanne Wissmann said the quality improvement that eHealth offers was at risk because government and hospital executives continue to ignore chronic workforce needs in health information management.
HIMAA survey members in December last year following earlier research that strongly identified workforce issues as the leading concern of the profession, including role substitution amongst health information managers (HIM).
“There was also the erosion of the foundation HIM-clinical coder health information services team through split reporting between financial and health information managements,” Ms Wissmann said.
“This is compounded by multiplying discrepancies in industrial classifications between the occupations within and across jurisdictions.”
Ms Wissmann said the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report on the health information workforce in 2009 highlighted the urgent need for substantive and ongoing data on actual industry needs for the HIM and clinical coding workforce.
However, the Health Information Workforce (HIW) report compiled by Health Workforce Australia in 2013 failed to identify the serious plight of the profession’s two major occupations, she said.
While the results of the HIMAA survey are only indicative, what they suggest is “more than worrying,” she said.
There are unfilled clinical coder vacancies in a third of hospitals around Australia and a health information manager shortfall in one in five facilities.
“Respondents indicate demand for both occupations is rising at a rate outstripped by the lack of supply,” she said.
“Over the next three years, HIMAA members in the hospital system expect an attrition of HIM positions at a rate of one for every two retained. Yet over 50 per cent of them expect supply to remain poor.
“Our survey confirms the trend towards role substitution – as high as 58 per cent amongst HIMs – and the dismantling of the HIM-clinical coder foundation of the HIS team through split reporting.”
Ms Wissmann said that based on HWA’s HIW report, hospital executives don’t understand the value of the HIM-coder team to every function in the hospital system.
“The interchange between information and data is important wherever it flows throughout the system,” Ms Wissmann said.
“Health information management may be a niche profession in the health system, but it is crucial to the success of eHealth, both in terms of cost efficiencies and quality of care outcomes.”
Posted in Australian eHealth