AMIA Announces Plans to Take Training Program Global

CHICAGO—The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) is taking its “10x10” informatics education program global. Instead of merely attempting to train 10,000 health-IT professionals in the U.S. by 2010, the group will lead an international effort to educate 20,000 healthcare informaticists in other countries by 2020.

“It’s a global effort to dramatically increase informatics expertise,” AMIA chief executive Don Detmer told Digital HealthCare & Productivity here Monday at the Bethesda, Md.-based organization’s annual meeting. AMIA’s board approved the program this weekend, and Detmer will officially unveil the effort on Tuesday.

The new program will be called some variation of “20 by 20,” although Detmer says it’s unclear whether that will be expressed as “20x20” or, in a play on perfect vision, “20/20.” What is known is that N.T. Cheung, chief medical information officer of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, will chair the program’s advisory group, Detmer says, and that activities should start in early 2008.

As in 10x10, the international effort will provide education in four domains of informatics: research, knowledge management, translational Bioinformatics, and public health. “The intent is to take some of the 10x10 content and make it available globally,” says incoming AMIA board chairman David Bates, medical director of clinical and quality analysis for information systems at Partners HealthCare System in Boston.

For developing countries, “20x20 will probably contain some courses that are not as big as 10x10 courses,” Detmer says.  In the U.S., most of the focus of 10x10 education is at the graduate level, an approach Detmer says isn’t practical in “low-resource areas” such as sub-Saharan Africa and South America.

AMIA estimates that about 180 people from Argentina have trained in the U.S. under 10x10, and some of the course material has been translated into Spanish. A Portuguese version may not be far off, according to Detmer.

In developing regions, there will be some material related to leadership, working in complex systems, and planning systems. “We’re wanting to make it more comprehensive than the 10x10 program,” Detmer says of the global initiative.

AMIA will lead the program on behalf of the International Medical Informatics Association (IMIA), of which the U.S. organization is a member, and the Taiwan-based Asia Pacific Association for Medical Informatics has agreed to participate, according to Detmer.

Detmer says that other organizations in Europe and Australia have expressed interest, but declined to name them until those groups approve the plan. The Health Informatics Society of Australia served as host of MedInfo 2007, IMIA’s triennial, global meeting, and the European Federation for Medical Informatics has collaborated with AMIA and the Asia Pacific group in the past.

IMIA’s current strategic plan includes global informatics education. “It does meet an important leg of the IMIA strategic vision,” Detmer says of the new program.

Detmer talks of developing “indigenous talents” in informatics so as not to create a brain drain from resource-poor countries. A key element of this strategy is the development of “home-grown faculty” to educate others.

This echoes what Antoine Geissbuhler, IMIA liaison to the World Health Organization, said in August at MedInfo 2007 in Brisbane, Australia. “It’s clear that [brain drain] is a limiting factor in the development of e-health programs,” the Swiss physician told Digital HealthCare & Productivity (see “Shortage of Health-IT Workers Is Limiting Progress”).

“Even in developing countries, a small amount of health-IT will be very helpful,” adds Bates.

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