Friday, November 11, 2011

Clinical informatics, the newest medical subspecialty

What is clinical informatics?

The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) defines clinical informatics as "the application of informatics and information technology to deliver healthcare services." Physicians who practice clinical informatics (also known as 'informaticians' or 'clinical informaticists') collaborate with other health care and information technology professionals to improve patient care and enhance healthcare delivery. AMIA has been working for some time to promote clinical informatics as a legitimate medical subspecialty.

Why is clinical informatics in the news?

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) recently recognized clinical informatics as a subspecialty. Interestingly, this subspecialty is not linked to any single primary specialty, but will be attached to any primary specialty (such as internal medicine, family medicine, general surgery) whose board approves it.

Certification in clinical informatics should commence by 2013 and will be available to physicians who are board certified in their primary ABMS specialty, and also have advanced training in informatics. Additionally, they will need to take an exam, which will be administered by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

What does the future hold?

Throughout my professional career, I have always been a part of a discipline that has been well-entrenched and highly institutionalized. General internal medicine was already a mature specialty when I signed up for residency, and by the time I took my boards, the IM board certification process was very well-developed (to the level that I was too late to get grandfathered into a "lifetime" certificate).

Clinical informatics is a very new field and is at the forefront of medicine today. This is the first time I have ever been a part of an emerging discipline, and it feels good to be a pioneer.

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