Welcome to Issue 2 of 2021 and to a special COVID-19 edition. The HIM-Interchange Subcommittee had planned to release this special edition in 2020, but with the focus on developing the new online platform for HIM-Interchange that didn’t happen. I was concerned that publishing in 2021 may mean we had missed peak relevance. How naïve I was. At the time of publication, many states and territories have recently experienced another lockdown or are currently living in lockdown after the most recent COVID-19 outbreak. The articles in this issue covering topics such as the impacts on personal lives, working arrangements, education and professional experience placements are as relevant as ever
History will recall 2020 as a year that brought about new challenges and massive overhauls to the very way we work, teach, socialise, and interact. As COVID-19 lockdowns called for staying home, they also demanded new approaches to working, teaching, and learning. Speak to any Health Information Manager (HIM) and they will likely tell you the way they work has been transformed.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has challenged all health services across the world. The importance of good record processes and clinical data management continues to be pivotal in supporting pressured clinical teams as they battle a demanding and rapidly changing world-wide pandemic. The experiences of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH) health information management team has demonstrated that Health Information Managers (HIMs) have an important role to play in hospital disaster management.
Under the Health Emergency Mission, the Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) is coordinating Victoria’s COVID -19 response through a single Departmental Incident Management Team (DIMT). Its purpose is to manage and slow the spread of coronavirus within Victoria. While the Victorian government reorganised itself around eight missions to drive the government’s public health response, this article discusses the development of a digital solution to support rostering, payroll and timesheet management for the expanding COVID-19 Surge Workforce.
Recent literature has found that appropriate coping mechanisms during the pandemic and lockdown are essential. Labrague and Ballad (2020) found establishing a support system, as well as individual problem-solving skills, were protective factors in resilience during the pandemic. As you may expect, different individuals have different coping strategies. Savitsky, Findling, Ereli and Hendel (2020) identified five coping behaviours demonstrated by nursing students: individual resilience (i.e. one’s ability to ‘bounce back’ after stress); gathering information (i.e. to increase COVID-19 knowledge and become more informed about current events); mental disengagement (i.e. engaging in excessive consumption of food and alcohol; or the use of drugs to distract themselves from current situations); seeking spiritual support (i.e. using spirituality and religious beliefs to deal with difficulties) and humour (i.e. finding the ‘funny’ in things and keeping themselves amused).
A few months ago a question like ‘Are you still working from home?’ would have seemed strange. But since the beginning of COVID-19, this and other things that seemed unexpected have become the norm. The impact of COVID-19 continues to touch all of us in some way – some more severe and devastating than for others. That this has followed on from a horror bushfire season has made us all feel both isolated and connected to each other in some way.
When 2020 begun, no one knew how the year was going to manifest. A global pandemic shifted every aspect of the working environment and transcended the idea of ‘normality’. To ensure the safety of the population, workers who could work from home transitioned to communicating through the computer screen and the lens of a webcam in meetings, webinars and workshops. Zoom, Microsoft Teams and FaceTime have become household terms. It has compelled professionals to revise existing processes, install entirely new processes, implement changes in short periods of time, update policies and devise strategies to manage staff in a virtual environment. Transformation to this new ‘normal’ has sparked innovation and adaptation, and this was no different when it came to second-year health information management placements at La Trobe University.
Academic staff at La Trobe University asked two 2020 graduates six questions about their remote placement experience during Victoria’s second coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdown. Tran Nguyen completed her placement with the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine (SPHPM) and Rebecca Tran was placed at the Victorian Agency for Health Information (VAHI). Two vastly different organisations, but with many shared experiences, challenges, and triumphs for the students.
It was March 2020 and the Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, had just announced mass testing of 'hotspot' suburbs in Melbourne. The number of coronavirus cases nationally were 1,917, with the 'clusters' all identified. “Our state’s health system is preparing itself for an emerging COVID-19 pandemic with a new plan to manage more cases and the growing risk of an outbreak in Victoria” (Premier of Victoria 2020). As I walked a lap of the local football oval with my son, Harry, and my dog, Bonnie, on New Year’s Eve 2019, we discussed what 2020 would have in store for us. "I wonder what 2020 will be remembered for?" Harry asked. At the time, we had no idea how destructive the bush fires were, and we had no idea that a new virus would bring the world to its knees. A microbe had and continues to change everything.
Completing a final year professional practice placement in 2020 was an experience that was out of the ordinary. Due to circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, most students were introduced to the idea of remote placements. Essentially, remote placements involved a ‘working from home’ approach, which was different from face-to-face placement in previous years. This was made possible as agencies were able to provide internal data, support and information access to health information management students using health information technology (HIT) and communication tools. I was one of the few students who were fortunate enough to complete their fourth year professional placement face-to-face, over a course of eleven weeks at Bass Coast Health (BCH), Wonthaggi Hospital, Victoria.
By mid March 2020 the Health Information Management Association of Australia, along with every other organisation in Australia and around the world, had to rethink the delivery of professional practice sessions in the context of a highly infectious pandemic. Subsequently all previously scheduled face-to-face meetings were cancelled and a schedule for the delivery of digital professional development content to members was implemented. This was done through a series of webinars with the first one being delivered on 23 April 2020. On Friday 29 May 2020 a webinar titled ‘Challenges of managing health information in COVID-19 times’ was delivered. This article discusses these challenges across a range of health services and various health information management tasks.This and other webinars are available to members for viewing at: : https://himaa.eventsair.com/MemberPortal/membership/members-portal/ContentPage/ContentPage?page=1