The development of chief clinical information officers has got off to a flying start, but future clinical information leaders need in-depth support and career development to fully realise their potential.

That was one of the messages at the first, joint EHI / BCS CCIO Symposium, which was held in may in support of the CCIO Leaders Network that was been launched to extend the goals of the EHI CCIO Campaign.

“I’m glad this campaign has started. It does feel like a real movement,” Di Millen, head of workforce development and professionalism, told the event.

Millen went on to compare the move to get more clinicians involved in information leadership to the move to involve more clinicians in health management that has taken place over the past 15 years.

She also said it was part of a move to get doctors, nurses and other clinicians to take a more “holistic approach” to patient data, focusing on analysing data on outcomes, identifying at risk patients, and population-level health.

“Clinicians have got to be able to analyse data and they need to be trained in data management and analysis,” said Millen.

She also told the event that a rich vein of training and professional development is available to CCIOs, if they tap into the development resources created for health informatics professionals over the past decade.

However, she acknowledged that the DH’s support for developing informatics professionals faced an uncertain future.

The latest development is the new Health Informatics Career Framework. HICF includes 95 different health informatics roles, with associated listings of competencies, core functions and individual job descriptions.

The site also contains case studies and a range of other resources. However, most of the work done to date is for junior staff and middle managers.

And nothing has yet been developed specifically for clinicians looking to develop informatics skills. With the Department of Health Informatics Directorate due to cease operations in April 2013, this represents a big challenge.

“How can we fashion career pathways for career pathways for clinicians that want to do more on informatics? How do you build the credibility of clinical informatics career pathway?” asked Millen.

She said that the model job description developed by BCS Health as part of its contribution to the EHI CCIO Campaign, was a good start, but was as yet mainly focused at doctors.

The CCIO Leaders Network will shortly publish a collection of CCIO job descriptions.

Millen said that one good available resource on clinical leadership was the NHS Clinical Leaders Network, which was launched to help develop local clinical leaders. The network now offers a series e-learning modules.

With initial CCIOs now appointed, she argued that a very constructive move would be to get “each CCIO to mentor others."

She added that important lessons could be learned from the US, where the development of chief medical information officers [the US equivalent of a CCIO] is up to 20 years ahead of the UK.

Ultimately, UK CCIOs may evolve their own professional body, like the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems.

But Millen argued that the push towards getting health informatics recognised as a profession is a long-term project.

“[Experts say it] takes 50 years for a profession to be recognised, so we are part way there.”

A move to professionalism is a key objective of the BCS Health Group and UK CHIP – the UK Council for Health Informatics Professions – which has been promoting the registration, certification and professionalism of health informatics professionals for the past 12 years.

The CCIO Leaders Network is beginning to collect and will soon publish links to the best available professional development resources and tools for CCIOs.