Mark Brommeyer FAIDH CHIA
Senior Lecturer in Health Care Management, Flinders University
Health informatics and digital health, two rapidly growing disciplines, are becoming more and more important for efficient and effective health service provision, particularly highlighted through the COVID-19 pandemic. To ensure that we can get the benefits from the adoption and growth of health informatics and digital health, health service managers play a crucial role in leading and managing the implementation of digital health and the transformation of healthcare, while also managing business as usual.
The question then is what capabilities and relevant competencies do health service managers need, to enable data-informed, strategic and operational decision-making, as well as the capacity requirements to lead and manage this digital health transformation. Health service managers must manage the challenges of unparalleled growth in digital health literacy across practitioners and patients alike, within this time of systemic transformation. This is predicated on managers being proficient in planning and managing the digital tools and technologies through this changing, contemporary environment.
Health Service Managers require: 1) competencies in leading the implementation and transformation of informatics and digital technology in the health sector; and 2) system and organisational capacity for building the management workforce capability in the era of health informatics and digital health.
In the scoping review, five key strategies were identified for developing health management workforce competency and capacity – they included: 1) embedding competency assessment into organisational management development processes, 2) creating an organisation-wide competency model (based on nationally adopted frameworks, e.g., the Australian Health Informatics Competency Framework) to guide developing competent managers, 3) providing formal, digital development opportunities to managers, 4) providing short-term training programs targeting focussed competency areas; and 5) adopting work-based learning and capacity-building arrangements for training and support across the organisation .
Factors that were found to be important in ensuring health services managers are best prepared to lead and manage in the digital health context included :
- “System-level investment in overall workforce development;
- A culture of trust and investing in innovation;
- Identifying and developing training that is relevant to specific health professional groups (including managers), roles, levels of seniority, and settings;
- Supportive team climate to reduce fear and uncertainty;
- Opportunities to the design of monitoring and evaluating framework that measure the impact of the technology; and
- Leaders and senior management of the organizations showing interest in and positive attitudes toward technology and innovation” (p. 5).
In ensuring sustainability of the healthcare system in such challenging times, the adoption of novel ways to meet the ever-rising demand for healthcare services is needed and, especially, a management workforce that has the competence to lead and manage change in the digital health environment. The development of digital competence in managing the transformation of healthcare requires guiding policy, supportive organisational structures, and robust leadership. It is essential then that investment in readying the health workforce, in particular the management workforce that can lead and manage the changing healthcare landscape, is prioritised.
Developing management workforce capacity requires a comprehensive approach to increasing the required health service management capabilities and system-wide capacity – this can include appropriate policy, supportive organisational structures and systems, and education and training offerings that are digitally aligned. Health service management workforce development requires more than individual and one-off efforts. It requires system-level support, appropriate resourcing and recognition, and cooperative efforts to reduce the barriers and hurdles to the ongoing development of essential digital health competencies and capabilities.
The following two publications provide a “proposed framework, for overall health management workforce development in the digital health era, suggests that national collaboration is necessary to articulate a more coordinated, consistent, and coherent set of policy guidelines and the system, policy, educational, and professional organizational enablers that drive a digital health focused approach across all the healthcare sectors, in a coordinated and contextual manner”  (p. 1) and “confirmed additional elements for the following four core management competencies that are important to health service managers working in the digital health context, including: 1) leadership; 2) operational and resource management; 3) personal, interpersonal and professional qualities, and 4) understanding the industry and environment. Factors that are critical to developing the system and organization capacity in the use of health informatics and digital health technology, and leading and managing the adoption in the healthcare organizations were identified in three categories: 1) policy/system; 2) organizational structure and processes; and 3) people factors”  (p. 1).
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- Brommeyer, M. and Liang, Z., 2022. A Systematic Approach in Developing Management Workforce Readiness for Digital Health Transformation in Healthcare. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(21), p.13843. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9658786/
- Brommeyer, M., Whittaker, M., Mackay, M., Ng, F. and Liang, Z., 2022. Building health service management workforce capacity in the era of health informatics and digital health–a scoping review. International Journal of Medical Informatics, p.104909. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36347141/