Electronic health records
Skills strategy needed for IT
TORONTO – A
landmark economic study, titled Health Informatics and Health
Information Management – Human Resources Report, identifies a serious
need for increased labour and skills among Canadian Health Information
(HI) and Health Information Management (HIM) professionals over the next
Key findings in the report, presented during the Fall 2009 Infoway
Partnership Conference, are:
• Approximately 32,450 HI and HIM professionals are currently working in
• An additional 6,320 to 12,330 HI and HIM professionals are needed by
2014, primarily due to the growing investment and adoption of electronic
health information systems (EHIS).
• Current vacancy rates of over 10 percent exist for six of the 27
occupational groups studied.
• HI and HIM professionals who require broader skills will increase from
8,880 in 2009 to between 13,690 and 32,170 by 2014.
The requirement for HI and HIM professionals to acquire broader skills
(additional knowledge, practical insight and enhanced experience beyond
their original training) is driven by the implementation of large-scale
investments in new EHIS technologies. The demand for training to meet
these requirements exceeds the resources that professional associations
are currently able to offer.
Five national organizations that play key roles in supporting the
implementation of EHIS technologies in Canada have partnered on this
important research to develop an evidence-based foundation from which a
human resource strategy can be built. These partners include: Canadian
Health Information Management Association (CHIMA), COACH : Canada’s
Health Informatics Association, Information and Communications
Technology Council (ICTC), ITAC Health: the Health Division of the
Information Technology Association of Canada, and Canada Health Infoway.
“This study provides real metrics to substantiate the fears and views of
our health partners in both the public and private sector that the
successful implementation of EHIS systems is jeopardized due to the lack
of qualified human resources,” said Don Newsham (pictured above),
Co-Chair of the Study Steering Committee and Chief Executive Officer of
COACH: Canada’s Health Informatics Association. “Furthermore, this is a
wake-up call that we need to devise strategies to address the skills
The study provides three recommendations:
1. A national initiative to monitor the human resource implications of
implementing EHIS, such as: HI and HIM employment numbers; capital
spending on EHIS technologies; IT spending within the healthcare sector;
and enrolment and graduation rates in post-secondary institutions that
offer HI and HIM programs.
2. An ongoing forecast of HI and HIM human resource requirements
supported by expert consultations, strengthened data sources, and
systematic industry validation.
3. The formulation of strategies to address skills shortages including:
strengthening the capacity of professional associations to develop and
deliver professional development training; expanding the role of skill
certification by building on certification programs that are already in
place; expanding co-op and internship programs to accelerate the
integration of recent graduates into the HI and HIM professional work
force; and, strengthening efforts to more effectively integrate
internationally trained HI & HIM professionals.
“Now that we know the size and seriousness of the skills and labour
shortage, we will need to act collaboratively and quickly to devise a
comprehensive human resource strategy to address the issue,” says Paul
Swinwood, Co-Chair of the Study Steering Committee and Executive
Director of the Information and Communication Technology Council (ICTC).
“There is a real risk that the substantial investments that our
governments are making in EHIS technologies will not deliver the
promised benefits unless we address this human resource issue
For a complete copy of the report, go to
Posted November 12, 2009