In the past, health information managers (HIMs) in Australia used to be involved in the department of hospital medical records, where their responsibility was the management of administrative and clinical information about patients. With technological advancements, such as electronic health records, their role is no longer confined to keeping medical records in the hospital. Instead, their roles have expanded. HIMs are now working as data managers and research assistants. They manage systems of health information, clinical information, and information systems in healthcare institutions. HIMs are significant in contributing to interproffessional education (IPE) and play a major role in its development. For IPE to be entrenched successfully, HIMs have to be actively involved in this process.
IPE is also known as interpersonal education, multiproffessional education interproffessional, or interproffessional education. It can be described as a process in a course of which various persons from different professions come together to learn from each other or about other persons' professions to improve collaboration between different departments to improve care of patients (McNair, 2001). IPE not only helps one to develop and maintain their core skills but it also helps one understand the roles of other professionals: what their activities are, how they approach their work, and how they both interact. This helps professionals understand their work at a greater depth. This results in good service delivery by all health providers. In Australia, a lot of attention is paid by the federal governments on improvement of health service delivery to its people.
Healthcare system in Australia is under review as a result of population growth, an increasing rate of population ageing, intergenerational change, and change in technology. This has prompted change in the sector as the old system of doing things is no longer efficient (McNair, 2005). Since traditional methods can no longer meet increasing demand, Australian federal, state, and territory governments have since introduced reforms in the healthcare sector. Among these reforms is IPE. IPE was introduced in social and health care more than 40 years ago. It was a result of spasmodic and sporadic initiatives in Europe and North America. The World Health Organization (WHO) endorsed IPE in 1998. The Australian Government has called for enhanced collaboration among all healthcare practitioners. This has led to IPE being developed. It is delivered by practitioners, educators, or service managers. Staff development has been a key in increasing IPE effectiveness for learners who have unique principles about others and themselves. Generally, interprofessional education has been well received in Australia, thus enabling sharing of skills and knowledge that are necessary for a collaborative work.
IPE is frequently being used as a means of improving service delivery and in developing various practices. Teams of professionals in different disciplines have to cooperate to offer the best services in Australia. IPE has the ability to make professionals share knowledge collaboratively, integrate skills and knowledge in different areas, generate or create new roles, promote research among professionals, and improve cooperation and understanding between research and educational institutions. It also encourages collective consideration in allocation of resources according to different needs and ensures reliability of the process of curriculum development.
The collaboration is made possible due to cooperation among staffs of various institutions in the hospital environment. This is a result of patients’ needs becoming more complex and increasingly challenging each year. As a result, it is apparent that no profession can single handedly respond to the wide range of problems associated with different patients (Thitlethwaite, 2007). Ageing of Australian healthcare workforce will cause shortages in the provision of services in the future, especially in remote and rural areas of Australia. Children, some young people, dysfunctional families, chronically ill patients, disabled or having different types of disabilities, or the elderly. Different diseases emerge every day, and the number of old people surviving to a very old age is growing. IPE will, therefore, help prevent this problem (Thitlethwaite, 2007).
Errors in medical records have often caused tension and bad working relationships between professionals. This has often been attributed to poor communication and odd working relationship between different professionals. Australian Learning and Teaching Council has explained that these errors originate from problematic communication. Many times, joint training or sharing learning platforms between different professionals can be invoked to reduce the number of errors or to improve collaboration between professionals either in reaction to the needs of those requiring comprehensive care or in treatment (Stone, 2006). IPE is, therefore, an indispensable element of improving care and reducing errors. It is very important.
In Australia, Australian capital, and in Western Australia IPE projects are usually funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council to have a more coordinated and systematic way of applying IPE in Australia. IPE should be or can be freestanding or it can be integrated into different professional programs in an institution, for example between HIMS and physicians or nurses. It can take just few hours to do this but it can also take some years. It may be done by some services or a university agency. This may be done in a classroom environment, through organized seminars, or in combination. Some IPE programs have big or small number of students depending on the program (Stone, 2007).
In the past, IPE programs were not appreciated. They had many problems ranging from tensions, lack of knowledge, and professional boundaries. There were times when some professionals felt that they did not need others or a certain professional (AHIMA, 2004). However, due to the realization that different professionals must cooperate for the best quality of services, the programs are now becoming increasingly accepted. A physician will need HIMs for medical records. Errors occur because HIMs may erroneously make wrong records due to ignorance. As a result, wrong diagnoses may be made hence a distortion of records leading to inefficient services (Harmar, 2001).
Today, most IPE programs are positive and have an outward look that seeks to positively unite professionals in the endeavor to improve the quality of patients care. They consider problems that professionals face when relating with each other. When problems emerge, there is a shift that first emphasizes moving away from blaming each other and instead focusing on systematical analysis of the failure. It also focuses on helping professionals recognize that they have a responsibility, which requires them to cooperate to improve well-being of every patient served by the institution.
IPE can be provided prior or after one qualifies for their profession. Some professionals hold the belief that it should be provided after one has qualified, while others are of the view that it is better to provide it in advance. Those with professional identities are better placed because they have professional experience that can be used during the IPE. This will provide them with experience that can help them ask relevant questions or have a clearer understanding of their profession. They will also be able to relate the type of challenges they encounter to the training. Those without professional experience do not have the needed experience to share. For example, training undergraduate students may be inconvenient. It requires modifications of their curricula, and may be constrained by requirements of various bodies that regulate the trainings (Davidson, 2008).
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Others argue that if it is done after one acquires a degree in a certain profession, there may be irreparable damage. There might appear differences that may be hard to solve after people get their professional training. Cases of stereotypes been often reported during undergraduate trainings. Different professionals have different stereotypes about the other. Such stereotypes may be hard to break later, even when people get to work.
Some professionals think that IPE should be conducted early before one graduates from qualifying program. The earlier it is done the better the results. Opinions of researchers show that continuing IPE through the program fosters professional development. A lot of work though has to be done to clarify the ways in which interproffesional objectives, methods, and content can be developed and integrated to match health information managers' profession.
In countries that are already developed, such as Australia, IPE is used by social care and health professionals, who are involved in caring for people, families, and communities with needs that are complex. Caring for older people and adults requires the involvement of generalists, specialists in nursing, medicine, social work, and allied healthcare professionals.
Universities in Australia can establish partnerships between themselves to extend and foster professional mix. Exchange programs have been embraced to help professionals understand other person’s profession. For example, if one university is offering nursing, dentistry, medicine, and pharmacy programs, it is possible to start an exchange program with another university that would offer health information management and social work. There might be challenges in combining different professional groups at first, but in the end it is helpful.
Health information managers can contribute to IPE in Australia by participating in seminars that they organize. Here they can explain to other professionals their roles, duties, working relationships, placements of certain members in their department in various other places so that they could experience what other professions do when they are at work. HIMs could also organize observation visits to get relevant experience and knowledge. Other departments and professions could also do the same. HIMs could also involve other professionals so that they could explain their working relationships and roles to them. Case studies and interproffessional materials available online may also be helpful if utilized. Case studies, in which other professions are presented positively, may help in IPE (Johns, 1997).
Health information students or those from other professions may also be helpful if some opportunities are provided for them. These students could for example be placed concurrently in one hospital. They could also be in different hospitals and then they can have meetings after working hours are over or during lunch breaks so that they can compare different practice experiences.
Health information management incorporates education in health informatics and information technology. Development of electronic way of making records has changed the way information is stored. It is, therefore, important that HIMs increase their knowledge on health informatics to facilitate smooth running of institutions. It is extremely important that information is properly stored. All professionals involved in healthcare, therefore, must be able to gain some knowledge and skills about health informatics. It is important because it fosters application of information technology responsibly while providing healthcare services (Berg, 2003).
Health informatics can be defined as skills, tools, and knowledge that help in information collection, management, and use. It is then shared to support healthcare delivery and in overall promotion of health. Health in this case means that those with acute as well as chronic diseases are in the program. Overall, welfare includes social care elements so boundaries are quickly changing. As such, HIMs are expected to provide records about a person from birth until death. In these records, all resources and activities that occurred in health facilities are recorded so as to monitor their effectiveness and efficiency.
Information is gathered from a variety of sources to ensure that care in the health centers today is evidence-based. This ensures that health professionals take into account developments, future trends, and expectations. All the above is possible with informatics.
Health information managers hence have a responsibility to contribute to the spread of informatics among all healthcare professionals. This is because all information is provided by health practitioners, researches in hospital institutions, technologists, and other members of the medical field. As such, if IPE is not done, there might be confusion of roles of each, hence inaccurate medical records. Contribution of HIMs to IPE will reduce the time and cost of hospitalization, ensure that hospital's resources are used efficiently. It will also ensure enhanced communication and increase of knowledge sharing among professionals. The result of these will be improved coordinated care, patients accepting treatment, quality of healthcare and its outcomes, improved satisfaction among patients and professionals, and role clarity. Patients will be easily accessed, their well-being will be increased, and medical errors will be reduced.
HIMs can become involved in interproffessional teams by conducting an assessment that is integrated in partnership with patients and that responds to dynamics of patients. They should also communicate with team members in a responsible and responsive manner. Another way in which they can contribute is by sharing their professional knowledge with the team to help them enhance service provision. They could also provide co-mentoring to peers in their own profession and others, who are in other professions, thus contributing to IPE. They could also set objectives to increase IPE preparedness for practice by various professionals (Herman, 2001).
Apart from practice and e-learning based methods, HIMs can also use other methods such as exchange-based learning, for example, case studies and debates between representatives of different professions. Collaborative inquiry as well as quality improvement may also be used to promote IPE. Simulation learning can also be used. Role plays, labs, and experiential groups could be used to help in IPE. All professions involved in healthcare should be taught to practice things they learnt. For example, they should be out-posted to other professions. HIMs could also use blended learning, which is a combination of e-learning and face-to-face learning.
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They could also arrange lectures during conferences to educate other professionals about IPE. It should be noted that all these approaches to foster IPE should use principles of adult learning. HIMs could also bring in both positive stereotypical assumptions and negative experiences they have encountered when working with people from other professions. The trick in this is to enrich teaching and learning processes. Time should also be set aside for HIMs and other professionals to learn from each other to solve any disputes (Yan, 2004).
There are negative things that are associated with IPE. This is because this concept has not been wholly accepted, and, as a result, institutions in Australia are still coming to terms with having to adapt IPE as part of education program among professionals. In institutions of higher learning in Australia, for example, it is expected that they should cooperate among themselves to foster and develop IPE. This, however, has only brought about competition among these institutions. Instead of using exchange programs as platforms to exchange knowledge, these institutions are focusing on building their reputation and using their position to attract students from all over the world. Such platforms are also being used to get finding of research hence undermining IPE.
In Australia, there are multiple jurisdictions, hence it is not clear under which jurisdiction IPE falls. As such, it is difficult to effectively implement IPE. It has also been difficult to get rid of stereotypes among different professionals, which has led to ineffectiveness of IPE. Underfunding of IPE programs in Australia is also another contributing factor.
Reluctance of HIMs to engage themselves in IPE is a major challenge that has been bothering the IPE sector. There has been difficulty in articulating what interproffessional learning is, its collaboration, and what is HIMs' role in all this. Interproffessional education and its practice pose various challenges to maintenance and development of one’s professional identity. It creates risk, potential loss of identity, and uncertainty, especially for HIMs. It has been a challenge for HIMs to define their job as well as to articulate their job with other professions, and IPE has not done much to help in this.
In conclusion, a lot of what is learnt or what has been experienced in health information class can be easily transferred to the interprofessional education. There is, however, a challenge that lies therein as the class will include other various professions. The assumptions, experiences, expectations, and perceptions can differ. At first, the tensions that are expressed become intrusive, but they should be seen as opportunities that can easily facilitate shared understanding. The classes should encourage building interprofessional relationships. Co-teaching could be taken up to ensure that lecturers are stimulating. Professionals in Australia should also have to get to know each other beforehand to facilitate smooth learning. This will help everyone be prepared to resolve any misunderstandings that may occur during the sessions. HIMs should join associations where they can meet interprofessional exponents to learn diverse perspectives to compare.
This is an exciting time in the progress of interproffessional education and in promotion of collaborative practice. All these things in the end help professionals in different sectors work together for the good of all patients they serve. This is especially true for those working in health institutions. All health information managers should be ready to embrace and promote IPE. This is because it leads to job satisfaction as a result of positive impact of IPE on the overall state of healthcare system of Australia.