I often get this question, along with blank stares, when telling people what I am studying. Some of the blankest looks come from those in the medical profession. Here’s my 30 second elevator speech:
Medical Informatics is the study of information and its flow in the healthcare setting. Typically you can think of it as “computers in medicine”, but it concerns everything from discussions at the watercooler and sticky notes on the wall, to the medical records and billing departments. My own interest is in being a liaison between IT and clinicians, as well as patient/provider communications.
At this point the medical folks say, “Oh good, we need folks like that.”
A more complete answer to this question is over at Oregon Health and Sciences University authored by Dr. Bill Hersh, the BioMedical Informatics Chair.
In my case, I have just finished up 8 courses for a Graduate Certificate in BioMedical Informatics at OHSU. The courses I took were:
Introduction to Biomedical Informatics-
Dr. Hersh gives an overview of this large area of research. I focused on patient/provider communication. I wrote a paper on asynchronus versions of patient/provider communication that was later cited in a national paper.
Consumer Health Informatics-
Dr. Jimison’s course takes a healthcare consumer centric view of medical information. For her class I focused on patient provider communication and wrote a paper detailing a sophisticated online patient/provider communications portal.
Dr. Tidmarsh runs through a PMBOK oriented course with a focus on healthcare settings. I worked with a group on a project management plan to implement electronic medical records in an actual clinic.
Clinical Information Systems-
Dr. Sittig looks at a variety of information technologies, their foundations, benefits, and drawbacks. I wrote a paper on the cost of lost or stolen personal health information to a HIPAA covered organization. (Way more $$$ than I could have imagined.)
Dr. Ash has an overview of OB analysis, as well as addressing healthcare biz topics. My focus was looking at Information Technology and Clinical cultures and how they can conflict.
The Business of Healthcare Informatics-
Mr. Kenagy goes over the CIO’s view of healthcare IT, and how he runs it over at Provident. I researched Personal Health Records and did a paper on how Providers and PHR’s (Dossia!) relate to one another.
The Practice of Healthcare-
Dr. Gorman has us non-clinicians pretend to be M.D.s in training. He presents cases and medical issues, and everyone in the class class gets to diagnose, recommend treatments, write up records, confir with peers, etc… Besides weekly papers on various cases, I shadowed two RN’s that are Certified Diabetes Instructors as they taught their class.
Dr. Hersh goes indepth on the fundamentals of getting information from various types of records. My class paper’s focus was on how to identify authorities within online (healthcare) communities.
So that has been the more formal part of my Medical Informaticist training. I have also taken a series of courses on Medical Terminology and Bodily Systems. I am doing my own readings, research, and volunteering/experience.
I hope that gives some folks a bit more insight into what tools a Medical Informaticist brings to the table, and helps address those blank stares.
It is hard to see that other folks run into the same blank stares or lack of acknowledgement in job descriptions. Especially when I am looking for a job.
So, what am I up to now?