ElectronicHealthcare 4(4) March 2006 : 88-93

A Collaborative Approach to Building Capacity in Health Informatics

Francis Lau


With the demand for electronic health information systems (EHIS) in Canada on the rise, there is an urgent need for qualified health informaticians to ensure their proper deployment to maximize the intended benefits. In its 2003-2004 business plan, Canada Health Infoway (2004: 2) has estimated that "there will be a need for an additional 1,500-2,000 technology, health informatics and change management personnel over the next six years as Infoway's investments are realized." Similarly, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) has estimated the need to train 10,000 health professionals in applied health informatics by 2010 to lead and facilitate EHIS implementation efforts in the United States (AMIA 2005). One strategy to meet such demand is to increase the supply of health informaticians through expanded formal postsecondary health informatics (HI) education programs. Yet another is to "retool" existing health and information technology (IT) professionals through continuing education to provide them with the necessary HI knowledge and skills. This paper reviews our ongoing efforts to build HI capacity in Canada. First, we revisit the pan-Canadian HI education strategy envisaged through a series of planning initiatives in 2001-2002. Next, we describe a recent effort among four western Canadian universities to establish a distributed Master of Science (MSc) program in HI. Then, we present an overview of a collaborative HI research training program among eight Canadian universities currently under way. Finally, we share the experiences, challenges and next steps ahead.



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