Transforming eHealth training - the transatlantic way
A new EU-funded transatlantic project to create a highly skilled eHealth workforce for global deployment is developing what’s been described as a "ground-breaking" interactive training tool. The EU∗US eHealth Work Project is in the process of creating a new digital platform to boost access to eHealth education.
The EU∗US eHealth Work Project has been set up to provide a digital solution to the growing shortage of skilled eHealth workers. The global consortium behind the project, which has conducted extensive research into training needs, is now developing interactive tools and platforms to access the latest education. Last September it was awarded nearly €500,000, under the Horizon 2020 Program, to develop workforce IT skills, competencies and training programmes.
Goal is to 'measure, inform, educate and advance'
The consortium consists of European technology companies and universities, the HIMSS TIGER (Technology Informatics Guiding Education Reform) Initiative and a large group of stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic. Project Co-ordinator, Rachelle Blake, who is the CEO and founder of Omni Micro Systems and Omni Med Solutions, said there has been widespread support for the project: "We now have a stakeholder community of thousands. It is just amazing to see how this has really reached a kind of fever pitch and is already being disseminated on a worldwide, global basis."
Blake was a member of the original EU-US Workforce Development Workgroup, formed as part of a collaboration between the EU and US, under a 2010 Memorandum of Understanding to improve eHealthcare workforce development and systems interoperability. She said the new project, which builds on previous work, has four aims: "We have a four-pronged goal: to measure, inform, educate and advance. One is to measure so, for example, we have a survey that is going on right now, which is looking at the needs, the trends, the state of the union, as it were.
Blake suggests that there are a number of questions to be addressed such as: "What is going on with eHealth skills, training and education? What programmes are available for nurses, for doctors and for other professionals in eHealth? Are they getting the same in the US and in the EU? Are they getting the same in Kosovo, as they are in Spain?"
According to Blake, there are disparities in the uptake of digital skills: "We’re finding some gaps along the way, so these are the things we’re trying to inform. We’re going to a lot of conferences, we’re doing a lot of collaborating to try to find out how we can do more to inform the policy-makers, as well as the stakeholders in this community, about what needs to be done and how we can move forward to develop tools and resources to make a difference, whilst advancing the industry as a whole. That needs to happen to a large extent, especially in Europe. eHealth is still in its infancy; it has quite a ways to go!"
Blake said that even in countries like Germany, where she is based, there is limited electronic health utilisation: "Our neighbours to the North, Denmark; our neighbours to the West, the Netherlands; and other countries, are really making huge strides, whereas this country still is not. The UK is. Some others are in the middle balance. Many Eastern European countries are, but are the workforces being supported enough?"
European Commission funding will improve technology
Blake believes that the 18-month project will support eHealthcare workers by developing knowledge tools and platforms, which will facilitate career development. Her team is currently working to update an interactive tool and repository called HITCOMP. This searchable database contains information on skills and competencies needed for various healthcare roles and will be linked to online and classroom courses.
Blake said the European Commission funding was helping them to improve their technology: "We’re going to not only update and tie in HITCOMP to the competencies, but create a virtual learning environment, which is just really exciting! We’re going to put these together in, what we are calling, an interactive web tool that will be able to be used by everyone, which will be a first ground-breaking interactive tool; the first eHealth tool of its type, which will connect all actors in the eHealth field.
'It could help create a legacy of digitally empowered healthcare professionals who will be equipped to meet the growing global demand for skilled eHealth workers.'
It will bridge education with skills to advancement. It will connect the educators the students, current practitioners, as well as those wanting to further their career. It will show where you are now, where you would like to be and how you can get there."
If this project delivers what it promises, it could help create a legacy of digitally empowered healthcare professionals who will be equipped to meet the growing global demand for skilled eHealth workers.
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