Nation’s Leading Health Associations, Academic Institutions Submit Recommendations on Labor Codes

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Health Informatics Professionals and Health IT Professionals Support Creation of New Code, Seek Separate Designations

(BETHESDA, MD) — The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) and HIMSS led a coalition of 38 professional associations, medical institutions and academic departments in recommending changes to the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system used by Federal statistical agencies to classify workers into occupational categories. While supportive of a proposal to capture health informatics as a new occupation, the coalition strongly recommended separate occupational codes for Health Informatics, Health Information Technology, and Health Information Management professionals, rather than the single code proposed. 

AMIA and HIMSS were joined by CHIME, ANA, ANI, AMDIS, the Association of Clinicians for the Underserved (ACU) the Veterans Health Administration and numerous medical and academic institutions in articulating how this delineation is critical to the development of accurate employment data, which will inform public sector decision-making, private sector investment and academic programming.

The SOC system is designed to reflect the current work structure in the U.S. and classifies all jobs in the economy – including private, public, and military occupations – in order to provide a means to compare occupational data produced for statistical purposes across agencies.  Information about occupations, including employment levels, trends, pay and benefits, demographic characteristics, skills required, and many other items, is widely used by individuals, businesses, researchers, educators, and public policy-makers. The SOC system has not been updated since 2010 and the process to revise codes for 2018 began in 2012.

In a 2014 letter, AMIA, HIMSS, CHIME, AHIMA and 13 other organizations urged the interagency SOC Policy Committee (SOCPC) to include a new broad category for “Health Informatics Practitioner.” The proposed updates, issued in a July 22, 2016, Federal Register notice, included a new broad code for “Health Information Technology, Health Information Management and Health Informatics Specialists and Analysts,” and one detailed code of the same name.

A coalition of 38 organizations – including associations, industry, academia and the Department of Veterans Affairs – thanked the SOCPC for accepting 2014 recommendations to include “health informatics” as an occupation. “However, we believe that the operationalization of our recommendations could use refinement,” the group said in submitted comments. “Specifically, we are concerned with the conflation of Health Informatics with Health Information Management (HIM) and Health Information Technology (Health IT) occupations. We strongly recommend the SOCPC develop detailed codes, separating the occupations of Health Informatics, HIM and Health IT.”

The group said this separation would “allow professionals in these occupations to be categorized appropriately for statistical purposes and it will enable employers to acknowledge important differences in skills, education and/or training.” The group also said separate categories will improve forecasting for this burgeoning sector of the economy, allowing employees and employers to make more informed decisions and enabling more targeted economic development through taxpayer investments.

"Health Informatics, Health IT and HIM are different professions, with a unique histories and distinct competencies,” said AMIA President & CEO Douglas B. Fridsma, M.D., Ph.D., FACMI.  “While there are complementary skillsets among the three occupations, the collection, analysis and application of data to improve care for patients is what sets health informatics apart from Health IT and HIM."

"HIMSS joins with our colleagues to recognize the inclusion of health informatics, health IT, and health information management in the national dialogue on Standard Occupational Classifications,” said HIMSS Executive Vice President Carla Smith, MA, FHIMSS, CNM.  "We strongly recommend the SOC Policy Committee distinguish between the three disciplines to advance our understanding of the unique impact each has in supporting healthcare transformation and improving health with IT."

"We are confident that separate codes will better reflect the ongoing evolution of each domain and enable this burgeoning sector of the economy to become a cornerstone of the modern U.S. healthcare system," Fridsma said.