Prospects for a New Medical Subspecialty FREE ONLINE FIRST
Don E. Detmer, MD1; Edward H. Shortliffe, MD, PhD2
[+] Author Affiliations
JAMA. Published online May 13, 2014. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.3514 Text Size: A A A
Only a few years ago, the mention of informatics in clinical circles generated questions regarding the rigor or relevance of the field. With the expanding interest and investment in health information technology by hospitals, health systems, and practitioners, however, interest in and acceptance of clinical informatics has increased substantially. Since 1972, the National Institutes of Health, principally through the National Library of Medicine (NLM), has supported a number of centers of excellence that focus on workforce education in computer applications and the underlying science. Additional efforts to help ensure a supply of competently trained individuals capable of maintaining progress with respect to applied clinical informatics are a recent development.
Among the current challenges for clinical informatics is the relative lack of understanding throughout the medical profession about the distinction between informatics and information technology. Biomedical informatics is a scientific discipline focused on the effective use of knowledge and information in patient care, public health, and biomedicine. Its patient care and health foci are termed clinical informatics or health informatics, whereas other applied components include those in molecular biology (bioinformatics) and imaging (imaging informatics). Clinical informatics is not simply “computers in medicine” but rather is a body of knowledge, methods, and theories that focus on the effective use of information and knowledge to improve the quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness of patient care as well as the health of both individuals and populations.
The clinical goals of informatics encompass numerous applications and considerations that generally involve information technology, including the use of modern communications methods. Over the past half century, with increasing capabilities such as integrated decision support, management of human genomics with prospects for personalized medicine, and biosurveillance in support of public health, electronic health records have served as the central focus for the learning health care system that integrates care experiences and preventive services with analytical tools that allow better learning from the huge amount of information that is generated every day in health care environments./.../