-Supriya Prabhakar

The adoption of technology or informatics in healthcare has been considerably slow over the last few decades. However, the advancements in the last decade have been remarkable, aided by the heavy reliance on technology-based solutions during the recent pandemic. The 2020s may turn out to be the decade when digital technology reshapes health systems. The pandemic has certainly driven several developments in this direction in the first few years of this decade. The digital health community continues to navigate how best to bolster public health measures using promising information technology tools.

Developing capable, determined, and supported health workers is essential for the achievement of national and global health goals. The advent of rapid digitalization in the healthcare technology space across the globe and the introduction of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission in India have brought out the need for skilled Healthcare Informatics professionals more than ever before. Based on various skill-gap assessments and the need for allied healthcare professionals, it is evident that a healthcare workforce that is sufficiently skilled in technology will pave the way forward for a new digital revolution in the healthcare industry.

Given the massive need for skilled workforce in the domain of digital technology in healthcare, there is a clear need for a standardized, industry-focused curriculum that academic institutions can adopt into their offerings and programs. This can help mint the finest Health Informatics professionals in the country.

ACCESS Health International initiated a roundtable discussion with industry and academic experts to come together and share their thoughts and suggestions on the ways to address the skill gap in the market. This was the initiation of the Health Informatics Network (HIN) which brought together the best of the experts from the industry and academia. After a successful round of discussions and receiving valuable feedback from the members it was concluded that the formulation of a model Health Informatics curriculum would be extremely beneficial to help institutes create a customized curriculum that meets the learning needs of the specific domain of students.

The initial groundwork was performed by undertaking curricula review of many Health information technology courses and informatics courses currently being offered by various institutions in the country and beyond. This provided a baseline for the wide range of topics being covered by various programs. This was then refined and brought to the HIN experts. The HIN focus group was created to segregate the experts from different domains into four key areas based on the cross-cutting fields of Health Informatics. The domain groups – Medical, Technical, Management, and Public Health were created.

With a focus on creating the model curriculum, the AHI core committee conducted a series of consultations with these focus groups and incorporated valuable suggestions and refinements. The final model curriculum for Health Informatics that emerged from this exercise was one that could be used by any kind of academic institution in its current or future offerings. Detailed discussions on the course content, scope, and sample syllabus were conducted and the group arrived at a consensus on the model structure of the core and elective topics as part of the curriculum design. Credit points and pedagogical methods were also discussed, and expert suggestions were recorded.

The course design focused on creating well-rounded Health Informatics professionals who could understand the various facets of this fascinating subject that seamlessly combines Healthcare, Technology, and Management principles, given the disparity between them. Introduction to medical terminologies and healthcare fundamentals were considered essential for technical and management graduates interested to pursue the field of Health Informatics. Given the advancements in technology, familiarity of topics like Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, and Data analytics was found to be critical for the medical fraternity and young clinicians who want to embrace this field. Management and public health professionals need to understand the application of relevant technology for crucial decision making. This was taken into consideration while designing the model curriculum.

Special attention was paid to subjects on entrepreneurship and fintech advancements which have paved the way for many innovations in the startup ecosystem. Introduction and deep dive of ABDM concepts for all Health Informatics students were considered essential to help develop a cadre of skilled professionals who would strive to build interoperable, scalable, impactful, and sustainable solutions for the healthcare ecosystem. The final curriculum has been made available in the form of a report and is expected to be released at the Dissemination event, to be hosted by AHI in New Delhi. To take the next steps forward, a dissemination event is being conducted in mid December which will see the eminent academic, industry experts and policymakers come together.

Photo Credits: Villanova University

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