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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Australian College of Health Informatics Elects a New President!

At MedInfo2007 last week the Australian College of Health Informatics (ACHI) elected a new president. Following this election Dr Hannan has developed a short position paper describing the direction he wishes to take the, still young, College over the next couple of years.

The following is a slightly edited version of this position paper.


President’s Report September 2007


As the position of President of ACHI is elected by peers I first acknowledge with humility and respect the confidence you have expressed, and I look forward to working creatively and cooperatively in this role for the next two years.

ACHI is a ‘young’ organisation so it is worth reflecting on achievements to date. Since its inception in 2002 our College has seen a gradual growth in the numbers of Fellows and Members to a total of 44. While not a large number this is a solid foundation on which to analyse sources of membership, and further opportunities for recruitment.

It is in the domain of health informatics research, that ACHI has come to prominence. Members are growing in international recognition through research publications which can be seen in a standardised PubMed internet enquiry covering 2006-2007.

At the recent MEDINFO 2007 conference in Brisbane it was pleasing to hear Don Detmer, President of AMIA and Paul Tang, President Elect of AMIA, endorse the quality of research by ACHI members, thus reinforcing our local and international standing in health informatics.

Publications in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) are considered world standard, and it is a pleasure to see that the work of several ACHI Fellows are attaining recognition at this level.

Yet, in spite of this progress we face new challenges as the role of ACHI and its relationships with partners and stakeholders is redefined and evolves over this 3-5 year phase.

From my perspective, our strong focus on the following three issues should serve to broaden our reach and reputation.

  1. Education.
    1. Evelyn Hovenga justifiably deserves acknowledgement for her contribution to the development of health informatics education in Australia. Her presentation with Professor Bill Hersch, Chair of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon State University, the at the AGM, on the outcomes of the University of Central Queensland education program revealed the enormous challenge and at times rethink an organisation like ACHI faces when the intended goals are not achieved.
    2. Bill Hersch outlined his experiences in informatics education that ultimately led to the development of the 10 X 10 program in North America. The AMIA 10x10 Program's goal aims to train 10,000 health care professionals in applied health and medical informatics by the year 2010 (10,000 by 2010 = 10x10). With reference to this experience ACHI can evolve variations to the initial program developed by the University of Central Queensland to roll out a different education model, and set some moderate targets to achieve.
    3. I am of the view that there are several key deficiencies in health informatics education. Key among these is that ACHI does not have enough clinicians (nurses, pharmacists, doctors, physiotherapists, and other allied health professionals) and health administrators in its numbers. I strongly believe that ACHI has the opportunity (and mandate) to influence Royal Colleges (and other relevant training institutions in health care) as well as schools of health administration, to expand the role of health informatics with the ultimate aim of making this discipline an essential component of the undergraduate or immediate post-graduate course curriculum. Over the next 2 years a core focus of my activities will be to investigate how ACHI can take a lead in overcoming this deficiency.

  1. ACHI Development and Promotion.
    1. At MEDINFO some of the ACHI Committee had an opportune discussion with Professor Don Detmer (President of AMIA) and Professor Paul Tang (President-Elect of AMIA) during which they clarified the relationship between AMIA and ACMI. This provides a helpful guide to redefining all aspects the ACHI-HISA relationship particularly for promotion and marketing.
    2. The new promotional brochure for ACHI, launched at MEDINFO 2007, is a sound first step to elevate the profile of this College.
    3. As an organization we need to define and promote the collective expertise of ACHI to hospital administrators, chief information officers and policy makers in health care institutions and to all levels of government. Only then can we begin to influence a change in focus from solely administrative health informatics to the wider domain of clinical informatics both in Primary Care and Hospitals.
    4. To this end I would like to build and maintain on our member talent bank. I will be requesting all ACHI members to provide details of their expertise and domains. While adding to the ACHI Fellowship it will make us more efficient at identifying experts within our organization who can promote our own development as well as acting as key advisors to external sources.

  1. Research.
    1. The core principle of health informatics lies in the tenet, “to improve care you have to be able to measure it” (W. Tierney, Regenstrief, Indiana).
    2. An ability to measure and evaluate health care initiatives depends upon research resources and facilities. ACHI is fortunate to have a number of these recognised facilities in health informatics in Australia such as the University of New South Wales, Sydney University, Central Queensland University and Adelaide University.
    3. These institutions will provide leadership to the wider informatics community and industry by innovative research in health informatics technologies and of equal importance research models in the direct patient care process.
    4. Research in the modern era requires significant funding and Academic-Enterprise cooperation is essential. This will not always be a comfortable relationship as was demonstrated during the MEDINFO workshop on this topic. The issues needing consideration by ACHI must include the:

i. Diversification of sources of research and infrastructure support

ii. Support for career development (student internships, recruitment of graduates, consulting opportunities for faculty members)

iii. Assessment of “Real-world” impact of academic research products with the issues relating to technology transfer, licensing agreements, etc.

iv. Impact of “contracting” often with circuitous legal issues such as intellectual property ownership and ultimate benefits for industrial partners.

v. Avoidance of the elitist perspective sometimes attributed to university based organizations.

On behalf of the ACHI I welcome our new Fellows for 2007, who add a diverse mix of scientific disciplines and national origins which should serve to increase the intellectual capital of ACHI. The flowing three received their certificates from Professor Bill Hersch during the AGM.

1. Joanne Callen

2. Vitali Sintchenko

3. Dougie Boyle

4. Chris Pearce

For the duration of my tenure I hope that my performance sees the enhancement of ACHI’s profile, the expansion of its membership. Also I hope to see ACHIS’ influence on academic curriculum to promote health informatics as a core discipline. Our organisation must continue to push the boundaries of research both in Australia and overseas.

Your input is encouraged at all times to facilitate frank and robust debate. I looking forward to a successful working relationship with you all over the next 2 years.


Consultant Physician

President Australian College of Health Informatics

Department of Medicine

Launceston General Hospital

Charles Street

Launceston 7250

Ph. 61 3 6348 7578

Email terry.hannan-at-dhhs.tas.gov.au


I had a number of purposes in publish this short position statement.

The first was to introduce to those blog readers who do not know of ACHI who it is and what it is aiming to achieve.

The second was to suggest that if any of this sounds interesting that a visit to www.achi.org.au would be very worthwhile.

The third was to ensure that those who might be interested in becoming a Member / Fellow of ACHI understand that appropriate senior experience in Health Informatics in Health Services, Government, the Health IT Industry and Academe are all valued. To do its job well it needs to have a broad representative base. ACHI wishes to properly represent the experienced and professional skills that are available in Health Informatics in Australia.

It is important to also recognise for those beginning their careers in Health Informatics, or those who want to explore what Health Informatics is all about the Health Information Society of Australia (www.hisa.org.au) is also a useful and central place to start and learn.

Please consider what you might have to offer and visit the either of the web site(s) depending on your interest and need.

Dr Hannan (Terry) has told me he is happy for e-mail contact to be made if you wish to discuss ACHI further.

HISA contact details are also available at its web site.


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