Australasia’s only health informatician certification program marks its tenth anniversary this year, having certified more than 2050 people from over 10 countries.
The Certified Health Informatician Australasia (CHIA) program is an industry credential which certifies an individual’s knowledge and expertise in health informatics. It provides independent validation of a person’s core and up-to-date knowledge of health informatics and digital health, and the ability to apply these across a vast range of settings.
In December 2013, the Australasian Institute of Digital Health (AIDH) launched the CHIA program and the first participants enrolled. Since then, the program has grown from humble beginnings to a sought-after credential.
The inaugural Project Manager, AIDH advisor Nigel Chartres from Perth, said ’it was a significant achievement, done on a shoestring budget.’
“The program has created a significant step forward for the recognition of people having some qualification recognised by the broad industry,” he said. “This isn’t an academic qualification but an industry qualification. It’s a substantial platform which gives people an aspiration target for taking their careers forward.”
AIDH’s Workforce Program Manager, Desiree McNeile McCormick, said that ‘in the first five years, we reached 400 CHIAs and since then we have gained a further 1630.’
“CHIA was developed to address the lack of formal recognition of health informatics knowledge and skills in Australia, and to raise awareness of that profession,” she said.
“It’s designed to certify that you know how to practise safely and effectively within a healthcare setting and provide the best possible outcomes.
“The CHIA program has grown considerably over recent years with more organisations supporting staff professional development through the certification program.
“The program ensures everyone understands each other and speaks the same language when it comes to digital health projects.”
Most people who sit the exam are health professionals but others are eligible providing they work in a health setting with health information and data. These include people who manage healthcare information, create, manage, and analyse healthcare data, work with, sell or market IT in healthcare, design health IT products, train people in these fields, project managers, and business managers.
The program is supported by volunteer committees to maintain governance, quality, content, and support participants. These include the AIDH Board, the CHIA Examination Committee and an Examination Development Advisory Committee.
The original competency framework was developed by a Project Committee comprising senior Australian health informaticians, respected academics, industry and government representatives. The competency framework is now in its second edition, the Australian Health Informatics Competency Framework. The update released last year provided a revised set of competencies as healthcare delivery continues to change and evolve in a digital society.
Candidates from organisations
In 2017, cohorts from three organisations undertook the program, in 2018 that increased to 10, and since then it has averaged 12 to 16 organisational groups a year.
“More than 40 organisations have supported staff to undertake the CHIA program, and many fund staff annually,” Desiree said. “Queensland Health has funded more than 700 people since 2017, and other examples include the Centre for Health Analytics, Telstra Health, and the Commission of Excellence and Innovation in Health (within SA Health).”
People who achieve certification can display the CHIA post-nominal. Chair of the CHIA Examination Committee, Jen Bichel-Findlay, from Sydney, who has served on the committee since 2014, said ‘CHIA certification gives people confidence and competence around health informatics and digital health.’
“It increases their knowledge, skills, confidence, and empowers them to work independently and competently in the digital health workforce,” she said.
“It’s also good for their resume and we hope it will be more so in the future as several government organisations have CHIA as a desirable qualification.
“We are likely to have more stating it is necessary in future as it is a good baseline qualification, confirming this person has all the baseline skills and is competent across six domains. It gives employers confidence that the worker has what they need (skills and understanding) in digital health.”
CHIA history and origins
Nigel Chartres was the inaugural volunteer Project Manager from inception to launch and remains involved today as a member of the CHIA Examination Committee.
He said Alison Gardner from COACH (now known as Digital Health Canada) travelled to Melbourne for discussions and a workshop on the March long weekend in 2012. Several workshops and months later, a competency framework was drafted, following a mapping exercise of several competency frameworks from overseas.
The first edition of the framework, Health Informatics Competency Framework, included distilled information from the overseas frameworks to enable congruency internationally. A working group member David Rowlands, wrote the first examination bank questions based on the Health Informatics Competency Framework, which were reviewed by the Project Committee members. This formed the first CHIA examination bank.
In July 2014, a CHIA bootcamp was set up to discuss changes and updates to the examination bank, and this has become an annual event.