The Canadian College of Health Information Management (College) has granted accreditation to the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy’s (JSGS) Master of Health Administration (MHA)-Health Informatics and Information Management (HIIM) program—a milestone in the evolution of HIM in Canada.
Accreditation marks the alignment to standards that ensures the currency, quality, and consistency of JSGS graduates and their readiness to meet institution and industry needs and provides them with an opportunity to write the Certified in Health Information Management (CHIM) national certification examination.
The MHA-HIIM program also brings to Canada the implementation of the specialty-core curricular model endorsed by Canadian academics involved in curriculum development for leading accrediting bodies and the American Health Information Management Association for master-level education.1, 2
Currently in the United States, there are more than 20 health informatics (HI) and 10 health information management (HIM) masters programs. Accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM), the US-based accrediting organization for degree-granting HI and HIM educational programs, has long been the standard for MHIM programs. However, there are comparative health system differences worth considering, such as differences in Canadian values and governance structures, that warrant accredited HIM graduate programs designed by Canadians for Canadians.
Enter the JSGS’s MHA-HIIM, a program designed for new bachelor's-qualified HIM professionals and experienced HIM professionals that require an accessible online graduate program. Its specialty-core curricular model is essentially a curriculum that provides foundational HIM education embedded within a master’s program that develops specialized skills in a complementary discipline. In this case, courses were designed to meet the College curricular competencies as the foundational core. The JSGS’s MHA program, widely recognized for producing health system leaders in governance and management at various levels and across health sectors and settings, provides the specialized curriculum. The announcement of JSGS’s MHA-HIIM program accreditation is timely as institutional and market forces, advances in scientific knowledge and technology, and social change create increased pressure on the Canadian health care system.
Shortages of credentialed HIM professionals are among workforce market pressures commonly reported. For example, between 2015 and 2019, the certified HIM professional-to-population ratio was only 15.4 per 100,000 population, with provincial variation from 5.2 to 20.5 professionals per 100,000 population.3 The impact of shortages in available HIMs has been perhaps most apparent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when the Canadian Institute for Health Information expressed the need for HIM surge capacity to support timely capture and reporting of COVID-19 data. The College responded accordingly by implementing measures to enable re-certification of inactive members.4
The body of knowledge required for HIM professionals to keep pace with technological advances and the health professions with whom they work closely, creates a need for specialization at the master’s HIM program level. Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning will create significant volumes of electronic health records and other source-varieties of near- and real-time quality data. Yet quality health information has always been central to direct patient care, maintaining patient safety and care quality, and used to support funding, policy and programmatic decision-making. The hybrid activity- and value-based models of funding and organization that many health providers are shifting toward are even more information-intensive and information-reliant, and depend on the vertical and horizontal integration of information at all levels to better monitor and manage the value chain throughout health systems. In turn, these models can accelerate the transformation of health systems toward achieving the five P’s of medicine – personalized, participatory, predictive, preventive, and purpose-driven health care. However, health system reform does not happen overnight and its implementation does not come easily. Health systems require master’s trained leaders who understand operational and administrative structures and processes and at the same time appreciate relationships to health information management to strategically mobilize changes such as adopting data, information, and analytics governance and reporting capacity in modernized health systems.
To support emergent priorities and health challenges in the Canadian health care system, and to keep pace with technological advances needed of HIIM professionals, the JSGS’s MHA-HIIM program targets different aspects of its curriculum at the right level of abstraction, ensures quality and standardization of core HIM learning competencies, and brings together faculty members with cross-discipline expertise to provide a glocalized perspective on health systems, governance, and management. Students also develop generalist skills for leadership and management—such as critical thinking, strategic decision-making, and communication—through continuous discursive, experiential and case- and problem-based learning. The school’s MHA-HIIM graduates possess the necessary working knowledge to make informed decisions at the intersection of health administration and health information management and technology. They are sought after by hiring managers to lead initiatives involving complex, multidimensional health care challenges and are necessary for the advancement of the profession.
Accreditation through the College signals that JSGS’s MHA-HIIM has aligned its educational curriculum to a high-quality accreditation system with a view to advance the profession and improve health care systems through better health information management.
1 Gibson, C. J., Dixon, B. E., & Abrams, K. (2015). Convergent evolution of health information management and health informatics: a perspective on the future of information professionals in health care. Applied clinical informatics, 6(1), 163–184.
2 American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). (2017). HIM Reimagined: Transformation starts with you – White paper. Available at: https://www.ahima.org/about/him-reimagined/himr?tabid=whitepaper
3 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Canada’s Health Care Providers, 2015 to 2019 — Data Tables. Ottawa, ON: CIHI; 2020.
4 Canadian Health Information Management Association. (2020, April 24). A COVID-19 update from our CEO. Canadian Health Information Management Association [website].https://www.echima.ca/ceo-update-covid-19/