For several decades, organizations and providers have been incorporating electronic systems in healthcare to help increase quality, safety and efficiency of healthcare delivery. Health information technology/eHealth enables healthcare workers and providers to maximize their care delivery, ultimately resulting in better outcomes for patients, consumers and society.
However, healthcare systems cannot work without people. They require a robust supply of highly skilled and proficient eHealth/IT professionals to use, operate and maintain them. Unfortunately, there is a global shortage of skilled eHealth workers due to a variety of reasons.
To address the lack of skilled eHealth workers, along with interoperability of those eHealth systems, the European Union and the United States formed a collaborative cooperation in 2010: The EU-US eHealth Cooperative Initiative[i]. The effort was formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)[ii].
Initially, two work streams were identified in the first Roadmap: Interoperability and Workforce Development. In 2016, the Roadmap was updated, and a third work stream, Innovation, was officially added.
Workforce development workgroup members met over 20 months and reviewed, analyzed, and synthesized thousands of skills and competencies from 15 source organizations resulting in a catalog of over 1,200 competencies, from basic to expert levels, for over 200 job specific roles in acute care, in 33 areas of competency called the HITCOMP Tool and Repository, and remains a globally accessible workforce development resource.
The EU-US WDW Initiative ended in May 2015, but several objectives of the original MOU were still outstanding: completing the mapping of competencies to other settings, linking competencies to educational resources, and providing access to foundational eHealth training; surveying patterns and trends, and analyzing gaps and disparities, especially throughout less densely populated areas of Europe and other areas globally.
Therefore, the European Commission launched a new call in the form of a Societal Challenge under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation grant program [iii] to continue the work and meet these objectives in the fall of 2015 – essentially continuing the project as “Part II”. In late 2015, a consortium formed as an offshoot to the EU-US Workforce Development Workgroup to answer this call. The consortium began with core members of the workforce development workgroup from Germany and the US, Israel and Finland and soon grew to include the following members: Omni Micro Systems/Omni Med Solutions GmbH (Project Coordinator) (Germany); HIMSS North America, via the HIMSS Foundation (project executed by TIGER); EHTEL (European Health Telematics Association) (Belgium); Stiftung Fachhochschule/University of Osnabrück (Germany); Tampere University of Technology (Finland); and Steinbeis Europa Zentrum (Germany).
This project officially began on September 1, 2016. The project will span 18 months, ending in February 2018.
The goal of the EU*US eHealth Work project is to address this workforce shortage and lack of full access to eHealth skills and competence. We will use the following mechanisms to accomplish our goals:
- Measuring: mapping needs, gaps, skills and competencies, and outcome models of eHealth
- Informing: providing access to knowledge tools and platforms, and resources to assess and improve eHealth skills
- Educating: increasing eHealth educational and training opportunities, and
- Advancing: promoting knowledge and development in the field by strengthening, disseminating and exploiting success outcomes for a skilled Transatlantic eHealth workforce
[ii]Memorandum of Understanding Between the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the European Commission on Cooperation Surrounding Health Related information and Communication Technologies - ec.europa.eu/newsroom/dae/document.cfm?doc_id=1784
[iii] Horizon 2020 SC1-HCO-13-2016: Healthcare Workforce IT skills (http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/h2020/topics/sc1-hco-13-2016.html)
About the Author
Rachelle Blake, PA, MHA, is a Global Senior Strategic Healthcare Information Technology Leader and Global HIT Workforce Subject Matter Expert. She is Founder, CEO and President of Omni Micro Systems, Inc. and Omni Micro Solutions, Inc., in the United States, and CEO, co-Founder and Managing Director of Omni Micro Systems / Omni Med Solutions GmbH in Germany, an international family of full-scale health information consulting and technology development companies in operation for nearly a decade on a global level. Ms. Blake has served in clinical, consulting, operations and administrative roles in healthcare information technology for 30 years, including working as a Physician Assistant. Since implementation of the US HITECH Act, she has been a leader in integrating meaningful use into, and helping organizations realize benefits from, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and Electronic Medical Records (EMRs). She has vast experience in clinical workflow and health operations from both a medical and business perspective.