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Census reveals NZ’s ‘invisible’ health information workforce

Wednesday, 14 August 2019  
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Picture: Auckland University senior lecturer in health informatics Karen Day editor Rebecca McBeth


New Zealand’s first national health information workforce census is giving visibility to a previously “invisible” workforce, says senior lecturer in health informatics at Auckland University Karen Day.


Day and associate professor at Otago University Rebecca Grainger conducted New Zealand’s Health Information Workforce Census in November and December 2018 and the summary report has now been released.


“We want to be able to quantify and describe this workforce because when we you look at how the Ministry of Health evaluates what the workforce is doing in health, they don’t count people working in health information and as a consequence of this, people are invisible,” says Day.


“Now that we have done the census we can start to work on how to build, support and enable this workforce to contribute to health system performance in the future.”


The New Zealand-wide census got454 complete responses. More than 60 per cent of respondents were female and the age profile fits the general profile of people in the health sector, with most aged between 40–60.


Around two thirds are working in public health services and nearly 90 per cent are in permanent roles.


Day says she was expecting a larger group to work across health information and another role, such as a doctor or nurse; however, 67 per cent reported working only in health information.


The greatest density of health information workers are in the country’s three main centres of Auckland, Wellington and Canterbury, and none are based overseas.


“It’s interesting that the citizenship status shows 82 per cent are New Zealand citizens, so we don’t have a big immigration group working here,” Day says.


Nearly one third of respondents had a master’s degree or doctorate. Only three per cent were Māori and 1.6 percent Pasifika.


Day says work is being done to support more Māori to become doctors and nurses and “we do need to do more work to get more Māori people involved as information workers”.


The majority of respondents are being paid between $1,250–$2,500 a week, in line with market rates for people with information management degrees.


Day says those who report being paid more than $4,000 a week a likely to be senior doctors in health information roles being paid at their clinical rate.


Australia ran the first national HIW census in mid-2018. The New Zealand researchers will conduct another census in November 2020, and three yearly after that.


Some participants indicated they would like to participate in the longitudinal study that is part of the census, to help see how people in the HIW progress and whether any career paths emerge.


Day and Grainger will be presenting the census results and running a ‘knowledge cafe’ on Wednesday 20 November during Digital Health Week NZ 2019 in Hamilton.


Read more about Digital Health Week NZ 2019


If you would like to provide feedback on this news story please contact the editor Rebecca McBeth.


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