Assessing demand for health informatics education in Karachi, Pakistan




Khamisani, Anjum

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The need for health informatics education is recognized by many countries which are now engaged in introducing technology to healthcare. Universities have been slow to respond to the need for health informatics professional education. Governments are also involved in initiatives to fund the development of curricula and programs in this area. Entry level and generic courses in health informatics are being developed in order to start education programs. There are now a number of such programs being initiated in some of the developing countries. To meet this demand there is need for individuals who are educated in health informatics. These individuals should be able to perform health informatics related tasks and activities in order to serve the healthcare community better. The focus of their work should be on producing effective leaders in health informatics through formal educational programs and professional education. The purpose of this research is to answer the following research questions: 1) Is there a perceived demand for health informatics professionals in the healthcare institutions of Karachi as expressed by administrators of healthcare institutions? 2) Is there a perceived need for post-secondary Health Informatics education in Karachi as expressed by directors of academic institutions? 3) What types of skills and competencies will health informatics professionals need to acquire through educational programs in Karachi? Setting: This research was conducted in Karachi, Pakistan in 2010 to determine the demand for health informatics education by interviewing representatives from academic and healthcare institutions in Karachi. Participants: A snowball sampling methodology was used. Participants from different types of healthcare centers were interviewed including public and private healthcare centers, nongovernmental organizations, primary healthcare centers of Karachi, and academic institutions that include private and government institutes which are representative of the entire city. Method: Approval was elicited from Human Research Ethics Board of University of Victoria to conduct the study in Karachi, Pakistan. The study described in this thesis used a qualitative design. Thirty participants including fifteen directors of academic institutions and fifteen head of administration of healthcare institutions participated in the study. The sampling methodology used was snowball sampling, which is a non-probability type of sampling. This is the type of sampling where samples are gathered in a process that does not give all the individuals in the population equal chances of being selected [92]. The researcher identified an expert who provided the contacts of academic directors who were invited to participate in the study. The researcher conducted face-to-face interviews with them. Findings: There are many educational gaps and there is also a lack of resources needed to fulfill the demand for health informatics education in healthcare institutions. Ways to improve education in health informatics were discussed and competencies required for health informaticians were established. By obtaining understanding about health informatics, the need for health informatics education to meet the demand of healthcare institutions of Karachi was identified. After reviewing details and results from the research, institutions can make an independent decision regarding choosing an appropriate approach to health informatics education that blends in with the culture of the target population. The most important themes that were derived from the responses of directors of academic institutions fall under a number of different categories. Understanding of health informatics was expressed by participants as representing an integration of computer science and healthcare. It was also clear that subjects felt that capacity building was required for the development of skill sets related to data and system management. The status of HI education in Karachi was noted as being in its infancy, which was a constant theme in all the responses of the participants. Additionally, limited resources available along with a lack of financial assistance, lack of knowledge, manpower, educators and awareness were also a few prominent themes. The administrators had hands-on experience in managing healthcare institutions and they expressed important themes with regard to understanding health informatics as being the management of data and the maintenance of patient records through computer science. The collection of encounters and compilation of clinical documentation was seen as the key concept behind medical records. Themes related to job market requirements included critical thinking, computer knowledge, understanding of medical terminology and specific expertise related to the HI field. Limited resources and scarcity of funds were seen as themes reflecting barriers for health informaticians in the healthcare organizations. Administrators expressed the need for developing academic programs to address manpower training for prospective employees. Conclusion: This paper presents results that could be a major contribution towards enhancing the approach of training professionals in the field of health informatics in Pakistan. This research will hopefully help educators adopt health informatics in their curricula and will encourage educators in the field to impart their knowledge to local people.  



research, management, approach, themes, need, knowledge, training, institutes, curricula, perceived, population, resources, informaticians, purpose, responses, expressed, demand, competencies, limited resources, interviewing, field, records, initiated, medical records