People working in the increasingly broad sector of digital health are being invited to take part in a census of the specialist digital health workforce, which is thought to have expanded massively since the COVID 19 pandemic.
The Global Specialist Digital Health Workforce Census 2023 follows the first census in 2018, organised by health workforce researchers Kerryn Butler-Henderson, now at RMIT University, and the University of Melbourne’s Kathleen Gray.
The 2018 census aimed to help identify workforce shortfalls and training and career pathways, and define who and what the health information workforce involved in Australia and New Zealand. A second, smaller census was conducted in 2021 to validate the data items and to offer it to the global sector.
Both were based on terminology used by the 2013 Health Workforce Australia (HWA) report, which defined the workforce in five areas: clinical coders, health information managers, health information technologists, data analysts and costing analysts. Health librarians were added to the list for the 2018 census, which received about 1500 responses, Dr Butler-Henderson said.
For the 2023 census, those job titles have been expanded to 21, adding in areas as diverse as biomedical engineering, digital health infrastructure, health cyber security, health AI, health interoperability, and health innovation.
The name of the workforce has also changed over time too, Dr Butler-Henderson said. “It was off the back of that Health Workforce Australia report and they referred to it as the health information workforce. The feedback following that 2018 one, plus during the 2021 interviews, was that because of that term, they didn’t identify.
“It then got changed to HIDDIN: Health Informatics, Digital, Data, Information, kNowledge. But again, it wasn’t something people easily connected with.”
It was while writing a book on the health information workforce with Dr Gray and Karen Day from the University of Auckland that the term specialist digital health workforce was adopted.
“By going through that exercise of putting together the book, we really started to broaden our definition of who the workforce is and we’ve incorporated that back into expanding some of those data items,” she said.
“So the 2018 census, we had a list of six areas. Now we’ve got 21. That’s the whole purpose of the census – how do people self-identify.”
The aim is to quantify and qualify the specialist digital health workforce, to delineate and count the workforce, identify current workforce shortfalls, consider the future configuration of workforce, and identify training and career pathways.
Dr Butler-Henderson said the workforce included roles with a function related to health data, information, or knowledge. Functions can include analysing, designing, developing, implementing, maintaining, managing, operating, evaluating, or governing the data, technology, systems, and services for the health sector (see below).
The project is a collaborative project between the RMIT University, University of Melbourne, the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care, Australian Digital Health Agency, Australian Library and Information Association Health Libraries Australia, Australasian Institute of Digital Health, the Health Information Management Association of Australia, and Telstra Health.
It is also now a global project. The Australian and New Zealand teams have been working with the University of Manchester in the UK and partners in the US and Canada, but are now also working with the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA), the International Federation of Health Information Management (IFHIMA) and the European Connected Health Alliance (ECHAlliance).
The closing date for the census has been extended to August 13. You can participate here.
The specialist digital health workforce includes:
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