Health Informatics: “Seriously cool”

This article first appeared in the 20 February 2012 edition of Pulse+IT Magazine.

Katerina Andronis, Director at Deloitte, has recently become the first female chair of the Health Informatics Society of Australia. She spoke to Pulse+IT and shared her passion for health informatics.

How do you describe health informatics to those outside the field?

I describe health informatics as an understanding of how health information is used by health professionals; how they engage with technology and use technology in the best way possible to help them make informed clinical decisions.

How did you come to work in the field?

My health informatics journey started over 30 years ago when I worked as a junior programmer in Clinical Biochemistry at the Queen Elizabeth II Medical Centre in Perth. I have spent all of the past 30+ years in healthcare, mostly in the hospital sector. I have been a CIO in both the private and the public sector and have worked in all eight jurisdictions.

All those years spent with clinicians has given me a strong understanding of “what’s in it for me” from the clinician point of view. I believe as an informatician, my job is to help clinical staff use technology in the best possible way and to see technology as an invaluable tool to complement their clinical skills and help them do their job.

Why health informatics?

I really care about healthcare and the vital role health informatics must play in our healthcare future. As a relatively new discipline, the ongoing challenge that we have is communicating what health informatics is. Most clinicians practice health informatics on a daily basis in their job, but most of them and many of their employers don’t recognise or understand what health informatics is. I have always seen it as part of my job to teach people what informatics is and why it is important.

With your election as Chair, you become HISA’s first female to occupy the role in the organisation’s 20 year history. What are HISA’s plans for 2012 and beyond?

HISA has a long history that I am proud to be part of. We have a bright future ahead of ourselves and the organisation is in a growth phase. We are Australia’s largest and oldest organisation representing and supporting Australia’s eHealth and health informatics community and we will continue to grow and evolve.

We represent a very broad church and our membership is growing. The growth in membership and diversifying the services we provide to members is evident, as more people across the healthcare sector recognise the importance of aligning themselves with HISA and the value they derive from being a part of, leading and contributing to the community.

The HISA Board, our State and special interest group leaders, our CEO Dr Louise Schaper and the team at HISA HQ have some really exciting things in the pipeline for 2012. Some of these include the launch of a new website and membership portal; the launch of the South Australian branch on 22nd February; the upcoming release of a series of thought leadership white papers; delivering four conferences — Data Governance in Melbourne, HIC in Sydney, the Australian Telehealth Conference in Melbourne and HITWA in Perth; an international study tour encompassing three continents; and the list of local State‑based events continues to grow.

Of special mention is that 2012 sees Nursing Informatics Australia celebrate their 21st anniversary, and we are planning a range of activities to celebrate this milestone and the achievements of the past 21 years.

Our strategy encompasses a range of new activities and services as we continue to focus on workforce issues and raising awareness of the importance of informatics across the health sector.

HISA members have access to amazing networks, information about national and international developments in the field, and opportunities to take up leadership positions. Being a part of HISA provides multiple platforms and opportunities for you to connect with innovative, creative and seriously cool people who are doing amazing things. I am so blessed and grateful to be in the position of HISA Chair and to contribute further to HISA’s central role in advocating for and supporting Australia’s health informatics community.

Recently in the United States, Farzad Mostashari, MD, National Coordinator for Health IT in the United States predicted that 2012 will be the year that Health IT “truly comes of age”. That same day Australia was hit with headlines of a halt to the PCEHR implementation Wave sites due to specification problems. Is 2012 going to be the year that Health IT comes of age in Australia?

Those of us who have been in this industry a long time understand the challenges of complex initiatives of this sort. Health IT around the world is coming of age and while there has been, and will continue to be set-backs along the way, collectively we are making significant progress.

We must remember that technology is not the problem — we are already building digital hospitals, and there are many, many healthcare practices throughout Australia that are applying health informatics principles, integrating technology and managing information and patient care better as a result. People in our community are doing a lot of great work in this space. While the PCEHR has suffered a set‑back, Australia is building the important foundations for eHealth, the benefits of which will be significant for years to come.

Health informatics is about information, systems and people. Understanding this, applying thorough change management principles and stakeholder engagement is the key to successfully bringing people on board and getting successful outcomes from Health IT implementations. Health and biomedical informatics is the key element that will help us produce really good care for patients. After all, that is the reason we are in this industry, it is all about the patient.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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