Australia HIC Conference

Aussie Series: Health Tech Workforce

By JESSICA DAMASSA, WTF HEALTH

A few weeks ago, WTF Health took the show on the road to Australia’s digital health conference, HIC 2019. We captured more than 30 interviews (!) from the conference, which is run by the Health Informatics Society of Australia (hence the HISA Studio branding) and I had the opportunity to chat with most of the Australian Digital Health Agency’s leadership, many administrators from the country’s largest health systems, and a number of health informaticians, clinicians, and patients. I’ll be spotlighting a few of my favorites here in a four-part series to give you a flavor of what’s happening in health innovation ‘Down Under.’ For much more, check out all the videos on the playlist here

This is the final post in our series, and in it I’m sharing four interviews on the theme of the future of the health tech workforce. This was a huge topic of conversation at HIC19 — dominating the discussion more than at any other conference I’ve been to in the US or Europe — and what struck me was all the different ways Aussies are looking at ‘workforce preparedness.’ 

There’s Kerryn Butler-Henderson, Associate Professor for Digital Health at the University of Tasmania, who is leading a Health Information Workforce Census that will take place in 2020. She’ll be “counting” the health data analysts, healthcare informaticians, health information managers, clinical coders and health librarians (more on what that job does in the interview) in not only Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania, but also the US, UK, Canada, and Middle East to give us a larger look at the demographics of this part of the industry. A surprising take-away from her previous work in this space? More than 70% of health information workers are over the age of 45, signaling a shortage that could come up pretty quickly if we don’t start doing a better job of recruiting for the field.

Amandeep Hansra, a clinician-turned-entrepreneur, spoke to me about an organization she launched called Creative Careers in Medicine, which gives doctors and other clinicians an “out” from a traditional career in medicine for those who would much rather launch a startup or serve as a CMO in a health tech company. The brand-new org is just 18 months old and has already attracted 5,000 members! What does that say about clinician burnout?! Yikes. 

And, finally, here are interviews from two different professional organizations that are tackling preparedness in two different ways. 

First, there’s Adam Phillips, HISA’s Workforce Director, who was a pharmacist and first-hand witness to the lack of training healthcare organizations have provided to-date to prepare their current employees to adapt to the “digital transformation” of healthcare. Now a pretty outspoken advocate from the ‘front lines’ of healthcare, Adam is leading HISA’s workforce initiatives and has some bold plans.

Meanwhile, Mark Brommeyer of the Certified Health Informatician Australiasia Board (CHIA) talks about the need for certification programs for health informaticians — the diverse group of clinicians, technicians, policy makers, academics and researchers working on the digital transformation of healthcare — in order to keep today’s workforce up-to-speed. 

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