Physician informatics leaders are playing an increasingly larger strategic role in health care organizations, but they face rising challenges in funding as well as in efforts to recruit, retain and develop talent.
Nearly four in five respondents to a recently released WittKieffer and Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems report say that their scope of responsibilities has grown in the last two years. These added responsibilities largely center around digital transformation, improving the patient experience through digital channels and managing artificial intelligence tools and machine learning algorithms.
As their roles expand, 70% of informatics leaders also are engaged in clinical practice, 68% of whom say they spend 25% or less of their time on clinical work. Nearly two-thirds of this group (63%) say their clinical revenues are used to offset part of their informatics salary.
Illustrating the increasingly important role they play in their organizations, more than half (53%) the respondents say they are part of the executive leadership team. Slightly more than one-third of respondents report to a chief medical officer, 32% report to a chief information officer and 7% report directly to the CEO.
The Funding Conundrum
To excel in their expanding roles, informatics leaders will need increased funding to expand their teams and to invest in developing existing talent. This becomes increasingly difficult, however, in light of the serious financial challenges facing health care organizations.
This is significant given the imperative for informatics leaders to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness as expectations rise for technology solutions within health care. At the same time, leaders face an expanding scope of work as organizations grow and the application of electronic health records and other technologies swell.
The allocation of teams and budgets vary greatly depending on the size and financial standing of the health care organization, the report notes. Physician informatics leaders in smaller organizations with gross revenues below $700 million typically have fewer than 10 direct reports and lack a dedicated budget of their own. Larger organizations with more than $700 million in gross revenues tend to have larger informatics teams comprising as many as 30 members or more while having a designated budget for their operations.
Workforce Challenges Persist
As with all areas of health care, workforce challenges in informatics are growing. More than half of respondents say they face challenges in creating development opportunities for team members (58%), attracting new talent (54%) and retaining new talent (54%).
This is making it harder to cultivate a positive team culture, optimize team performance and effectively adapt to new hybrid working models, the report explains.
These complexities also compound the already formidable task of managing and nurturing high-performing teams.
One bright spot in the survey data is the passion executives demonstrate in their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion within their organizations. Seventy-five percent of respondents actively participate in learning opportunities in areas like unconscious bias while 63% make recruitment and development of diverse team members an integral part of their daily activities.