The spotlight on data and technology in healthcare continues to increase. To support this focus there is a growing need to ensure we have a workforce that is both skilled and knowledgeable. Health Education England wanted to understand how recruitment and retention (including progression) for health informatics can be improved, by learning from the experiences of our existing workforce to inform their ‘Building a Digital Ready Workforce (BDRW) programme.
The Health Informatics Career Pathways Research Project was commissioned to inform the BDRW programme, designed to explore the pathway from graduate to Chief Information Officer. An online survey was undertaken to gather intelligence using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative questions capturing information in four areas: contextual information, mapping career pathways, reflections on the past, and looking to the future, in order to understand key themes around retention, recruitment and progression.
507 individuals participated in the survey. Information was captured about 855 individual roles including 627 unique job titles and 300 different definitions of Health Informatics. The Health Informatics Career Pathways Project report was launched in November 2019, supported by a visually informative care pathways heatmap derived from coding all roles by seniority and specialist career area, plotting movements where possible.
The research findings captured both longitudinal views, and also views at scale to provide a strong evidence base for the national BDRW programme in designing its next steps, and clarifying key messages to be taken to industry leaders. The report presents five areas requiring improvement:
Articulating health informatics career pathways across the NHS: There is a need to agree and articulate the specialist areas within health informatics alongside skill requirements with industry recognised job titles and descriptions.
Nationally supported recruitment and retention: Three career levels were identified with the need for targeted training and support for progression between them.
Defining the professional body offer and understanding health informatics network opportunities: There is real potential for the professional bodies and local training networks to explain what they are offering and support individuals in realising their goals.
Regional / System approaches to developing an informatics workforce: Identifying local supply and demand requirements and opportunities for joint initiatives to enable staff to gain exposure to system wide projects and develop new skills and experience.
What can senior leaders do now? It will be important to explore the cultural changes needed to ensure health informatics has a voice and is seen as integral to service transformation.
These themes are not mutually exclusive and make a case for change to break down silos between different professional groups and provide a greater level of support and guidance for health informatics staff.