We are currently compiling global case studies to bring our survey and gap analysis findings to life with a focus on all states within the European Union. If you are interested in submitting a study on behalf of your program, academic institution or organization, please contact Toria Shaw, Senior Manager, Professional Development, to learn more.
EU*US eHealth Work Project H2020-SC1-HCO13-2016
Mapping Skills and Competencies; Providing Access to Knowledge, Tools and Platforms; and Strengthening, Disseminating and Exploiting Success Outcomes for a Skilled Transatlantic eHealth Workforce
Ursula Hübner, University of Applied Sciences Osnabrück Germany
Toria Shaw, Beth Elias and Sarah Bell, HIMSS Foundation on behalf of the TIGER Initiative
Rachelle Blake, Omni Micro Systems/Omni Med Solutions
This project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 727552 EUUSEHEALTHWORK.
The EU*US eHealth Work Project has been a 21-month project designed to measure, educate, inform and advance eHealth skills, training and workforce development through creation of tools and resources, stakeholder engagement, and contribution to policy evolution regarding digital skills enhancement for healthcare professionals.
Within the first few months, the Project conducted a comprehensive Survey of Current State and Needs of the eHealth Workforce in order to document real world issues, challenges, and gaps that may be present within the eHealth field. The survey evaluated the impact of education, skills, training and other conditions on the successful development and sustainment of a proficient, digitally-skilled workforce. In addition to the Survey, the Project also conducted an extensive Gap Analysis on the Survey results, with findings demonstrating 10 major gaps in skills, training, funding and other areas of eHealth workforce preparation, development and advancement. As a next step, 22 Global Case Studies were compiled to capture examples from institutions and organizations with strategies that showcase and demonstrate real-world issues, challenges and/or gaps that further underscore the findings of both the Survey and the Gap Analysis, as defined below.
The 22 Global Case Studies highlight and enrich the Survey and Gap Analysis results, while concurrently bringing current states and future needs to life in practical ways. They also reveal real-world examples and powerful insights that can be learned from and built upon. In many instances, the Case Studies propose remedies and identify concepts or solutions to help bridge gaps and overcome challenges in key areas within the eHealth infrastructure or provide further access to education.
Being a European-funded project, the Project made it a priority to include studies from the major areas throughout the European Union (EU); however, being a transatlantic and in fact globally oriented project, the Project also strived to include examples that reflect on-the-ground realities and challenges in the United States (US), as well as in developing countries and regions around the world. All Case Studies are unique and very diverse in nature, but their overall findings and recommendations are also highly comparable in many instances.
In all, the reader will find examples of successes and best practices as well as deficiencies and needs when it comes to eHealth education and training, skills preparation, competency assessment and workforce development.
Survey of Current State and Needs
The Survey of Current States and Needs of the eHealth Workforce gathered information about the current status of skills, skills assessment tools, available formal/informal curriculum and training programs, workplace needs, trends and the future state of eHealth throughout the EU, the US and globally.
The survey assisted with identification of global health IT/eHealth workforce development needs, trends and gaps to help create a bigger picture of how to achieve a highly skilled workforce regionally, across borders and on a global scale. The survey also sought to capture information about health IT skillsets; available curriculum and/or workplace training programs and skills assessment tools; and educational needs, trends and future state mapping.
The survey addressed a variety of actors in eHealth, including participants from the ministerial/political realm, academia, and scientific areas as well as those with healthcare backgrounds. Based on the respondent’s role or sector, the survey led the respondents to role-based questions such as a ministry official, professor, scientist, clinical educator, healthcare worker, etc. The Project Consortium chose a role-based approach and used role-specific questions in a branching manner that led to a customized questionnaire stream tailored to fit respondents from specific sectors.
The survey covered the following topics:
- Politics and Government
- eHealth Training and Education
- eHealth Skills
- eHealth Workforce Status and Interactions
- Relevance of Competencies for Different Health Professions
- Additional eHealth Training, Skills and Assessment Questions
- Additional Online Training Tools / Courses Questions
Overall, the survey goals focused on:
- Enabling new workforce members to advance in their organizations
- Helping incumbent professionals to sustain success in their roles
- Sharing of personal insights to shape health IT and informatics, enabling a skilled workforce
- Performing analysis of the results, including analyzing any gaps found
- Using the published results to measure, inform, educate and benchmark relevant data, such as case study findings, against
The survey represented the flagship deliverable of the project. Survey findings have informed all project deliverables that followed, such as the Gap Analysis, development of global Case Studies and the Foundational Curricula.
A Gap Analysis was generated from the Survey of Current State of Needs data. This analysis used descriptive statistics (frequencies and percentages), which followed the logic and structure of the survey. Ten major gaps were identified in the analysis.
Those gap areas are as follows:
- GAP 1: eHealth knowledge and skills of healthcare professionals: The majority of healthcare managers and healthcare workers do not have sufficient digital skills.
- GAP 2: eHealth knowledge and skills of informal care givers: There is inadequate training for informal caregivers globally.
- GAP 3: Knowledge and skills of teachers and trainers: The experience of educators in health informatics and ICT needs to be improved.
- GAP 4: Availability of courses and programmes at various levels and for various professions: The number of eHealth courses and programmes is limited throughout Europe (and globally).
- GAP 5: Quality and quantity of eHealth training material: Training material and tools are not available online and/or need to be better designed.
- GAP 6: Adaptation of job descriptions, training on the job, staff development: There are deficiencies in preparing and training staff, and adjusting job descriptions due to system changes, new tools and methods.
- GAP 7: eHealth infrastructure: Many countries in Europe (and globally) do not have an appropriate eHealth infrastructure.
- GAP 8: eHealth usage: Healthcare professionals are not encouraged to use eHealth, and are not in a position to utilize eHealth to ensure continuity of care.
- GAP 9: Acceptance and usability of systems: Users are not involved in their organisations to participate in systems engineering and IT life cycle management.
- GAP 10: Shortage of health professionals and gender disparities: There is a shortage of health care professionals in all countries; there are still gender disparities, particularly in the technology-oriented field.
Finally, based on the results of the gap analysis, EU-US eHealth Work Project Consortium devised the following twelve recommendations as guidelines for “Best Practices” in eHealth workforce development education, training and skills:
- Raise the awareness of healthcare decision makers at all levels in terms of eHealth opportunities and applications, job requirements and continuous education needs.
- Bridge the gap between ICT and clinicians by providing digital skills to clinicians, by offering clinical workflow insights to information systems specialists, and by sharing informatics methods with all members of the extended healthcare team.
- Ensure all healthcare staff are given enough time and training to adjust to implementations, changes and optimizations required by eHealth systems.
- Integrate core eHealth competencies into traditional healthcare training, curricula and courseware, including for the standard healthcare professions (e.g., nursing, physicians, pharmacists, allied health, etc.), at all educational levels (from secondary through post-graduate levels), and encourage recognition of eHealth competence through certification.
- Equip all those who work with eHealth systems and healthcare technology, including informal caregivers and nonprofessional workers, with the necessary training and skills to use such systems.
- Teach the teachers, as they are the gatekeepers at an early stage of education and multipliers at all stages of education and training.
- Actively engage and integrate women in eHealth workforce development.
- Design eHealth training, including instructor-led, online and blended learning courses, with up-to-date, real-world clinical, informatics and technology scenarios, in modular format when possible, preparing learners to be successful in their roles, from their first day of work throughout their career progression and advancement.
- Update and evaluate eHealth courseware and training materials frequently for improved outcomes.
- Align eHealth roles with skills and competencies required for success and future growth, along with the required training and education needed to achieve competence in the roles, learning and adapting from occupational standards on local, regional, national and international levels.
- Enable healthcare providers to better integrate information technology into clinical workflows by providing them with digital skills, and engaging them in system selection, design and development, testing and training, deployment and optimization.
- Promote the industry of eHealth by encouraging, advancing, and strengthening the integration of clinical practice, informatics and technology in the healthcare workforce, especially where the opportunity exists to enhance interoperability, care coordination, and active and healthy ageing.
Additionally, in order to achieve these goals, recommendations for investments were suggested. As the gap analysis showed a that large majority of respondents favoured an increase in research with regard to acceptance, integration and advancement of eHealth, these measures were recommended:
- To foster research in usability and other human factors
- To push initiatives at national level to select IT standards and to make these standards mandatory
- To support activities of:
- awareness raising of existing eHealth solutions
- education and training of how to use these systems to solve clinical, care and patient-related problems, and
- evaluation of innovative eHealth systems.