Building a digital health workforce requires upskilling, academic alignment

Investing in current and future workforce member skills will be critical for the digital transformation across all healthcare sectors: The question is how to prepare the wide range of healthcare workers, from digital natives to industry veterans, with the digital literacy capacities needed to follow through with large scale goals.

In a HIMSS21 digital panel moderated by Ruth Schleyer, RN, chief nursing informatics officer for Legacy Health, Mountasser Kadrie, director of the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Shenita Freeman, senior director of analytics and informatics at Centurion, and Scott Cullen, managing director and chief innovation officer at Accenture, discussed a variety of strategies.

Both Kadrie and Freeman pointed to the need for professionals with digital competency skills, noting how Covid has changed the landscape, in part through data visualization.

“Healthcare providers are going to need to have strong digital competency skills in the future, and I am confident academic institutions will align their programs to meet this demand, which will be on a local, regional, and global level,” Kadrie said.

Freeman added that many public health workforce do not feel confident they have the necessary tech skills for the environment they work in today.

“This is not the future, we’re talking about right now people don’t feel they have the skills to do the work they need to, and they feel a little overwhelmed with the amount of data,” she said. “For a lot of people who entered the profession, they never thought technology would be lynchpin in this way.”

Kadrie said he expected to see a bigger focus from healthcare organizations on upskilling their workforce by looking at other practices used by other industries and how they can be applied to healthcare.

Cullen pointed to the biggest deficit among organizations is in understanding the capabilities of analytics.

“We’re seeing a big pull and a skills gap for those workforce skills focused on analytics, which are needed to really grow your footprint in that area,” he said.

He also said proficiency with telehealth tools pose a particular challenge, as organizations are still in a place where telemedicine was a standup emergency measure. 

Freemon also pointed out how critical telehealth became during Covid, including mental health needs, and noted something that makes telehealth tech enjoyable is that patients and practitioners know how to use the technology. 

“It’s not just on the IT side of the house, it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure secure and safe telehealth experiences for our patients,” she said. 

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