Informatics: a new kind of health worker

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

MEDFORD Asante Health System found itself recently in a sort of technological no-man’s land.

On one side, the IT workers who keep Asante’s day-to-day technology systems up and running. On the other, clinicians who’ve found themselves not only using more and more health-care-specific IT, but who’ve also found technological glitches and large volumes of electronic data harder and harder to handle.

What the hospital system needed for relief was a new kind of worker who could combine IT know-how with health-care savvy.

So Asante teamed up with Rogue Community College, landed a $433,000 grant and created a new kind of employee: the health-care informatics assistant.

Through a training program set up with RCC, 22 Asante employees — receptionists, phlebotomists and the like — will take a total of 16 courses in everything from anatomy and chemistry to networking and databases.

When finished, they will be promoted into the position of health-care informatics assistant to train new clinicians on department systems, troubleshoot, install equipment and perform other tasks.

“Which will allow our health-care providers to spend more time with patients,” says Mike Hancock,  Asante’s HR director.

The development of this position is the latest evolutionary step for medical informatics in Oregon, which 40 years ago was little more than a few doctors tinkering around with early-model computers. Now medical informatics permeates health care in everything from electronic  records to computerized databases, websites and more.

“Anyone who’s involved in clinical information really needs to understand how it operates,” says Bill Hersh, professor and chair of the department of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University. “And it’s not just computers and IT; it’s an entire understanding of health care.”

JON BELL


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