Great healthcare provision is dependent on great IT. How can we support and develop the informatics professionals needed to deliver the solutions?

As the healthcare sector increasingly depends on the successful deployment of technology, Andrew Griffiths, CEO of FEDIP, the Federation for Informatics Professionals in health and care, believes that the two disciplines have deep lessons to learn from each other that will benefit them both. 

What Informatics brings to healthcare

Information Technology plays a crucial role in the healthcare industry, contributing to improved patient care, enhanced efficiency, and better management of healthcare resources. The foundation and innovation which IT brings is only increasing with time. A few examples spring instantly to mind – the introduction of Electronic Patient Records; digital identity and the use of single sign on technology to secure access and increase productivity; the growing use of decision support and analytics for clinicians; through to fundamental back office services like cyber security and supply chain management.

IT has a lot to offer the sector but success depends on developing and retaining skilled informatics professionals to deliver outstanding implementation projects. Now, more than ever, we need to have our NHS colleagues working in digital being recognised for the life-changing work they do to support front-line staff. FEDIP is a collaboration between the leading professional bodies in health and care informatics. Our aim is to support the development of the informatics profession and the individuals who work in IT within healthcare.

What Informatics professionals can learn from clinicians

In the UK medical professions there is a long standing culture of joining professional bodies such as the BMA and RCN. Job roles and titles are clearly defined and standardised. There are training paths, recognised qualifications and options for ongoing skills and career development.

Perhaps because Informatics is a younger discipline than medicine, there is less structure and clarity within the profession. This makes it hard for employers to know what skills to expect from employees and how to develop their careers through standardised paths. Do Informatics professionals from one IT-related degree course have the same skills as those from a different educational establishment? Can you expect a common level of skills from people with the same generic job title in different organisations, for example Systems Analysts or Analytics Consultants? Are there different job titles for essentially the same roles and competencies across the NHS and private providers? What can be expected of IT professionals who’ve worked in other industries? It’s time to grasp the nettle and bring clarity and structure to informatics.

‘Professionalising’ informatics healthcare

It is high time to further ‘professionalise’ healthcare informatics, learning from the experience of the medical profession. More structure and standardisation is needed – in qualifications, job titles, role definitions, career paths and professional development. As a collaboration between the leading professional bodies in health and care informatics – BCS, CILIP, IHRIM, Socitm and APHA – FEDIP supports the development of the informatics profession.

In accordance with our aim to establish professional standards and maintain a public register of experienced practitioners, the Federation has recently launched a new Occupational Architecture that defines the different informatics job roles and what the competencies are for each role. Professionals working in informatics can then understand where they currently sit, what is expected of them, and what roles they could aspire to. Career paths and professional development steps will become clearer as the skills and competencies needed in all roles will be available to see. Continuous Professional Development and the collection of CPD points will become simpler.

It’s vital to act now

Whereas IT used to be in the background in healthcare, now it’s fundamental. Increasing the structure, clarity and standardisation in healthcare informatics will deliver greater confidence and results to employers, clinicians, informatics professionals, government and the wider society, in the UK and overseas. It’s time to get involved with FEDIP.

There are two steps to becoming FEDIP registered, firstly join one of the related professional bodies (APHA, BCS, CILIP, IHRIM), then apply through them to register with FEDIP. For more information on FEDIP registration click here. Act now!