Health informatics

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Electronic patient chart from a health information system
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See also Bioinformatics | Canada Health Infoway 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png | Electronic health records (EHRs) | Medical informatics | Pharmacy informatics

Health informatics is a newer "...information discipline combining information science, medicine and health care" and deals specifically with the devices and methods needed for the storage, retrieval and use of digital health information. The focus of health informatics within health care, however, is the application of information technology to deliver patient care in order to:

  • use computers to manage systems, research, learning and policy
  • improve health outcomes and processes for physicians and patients
  • build collaborations among groups and sectors including consumers, providers, educators, researchers, clinicians
  • develop international leaders in research
  • maintain strong ethical standards

The field deals with understanding the meaning and use of health information to support clinical care, health administration, research and teaching. Health informaticists have knowledge and skills in information management derived from several disciplines as the field deals with the resources, devices and methods needed to optimize the storage, retrieval and usage of information in medicine. While MI utilizes computers and health information across a spectrum of care, and places importance on the electronic patient record, HI encompass a range of tools such as clinical guidelines, medical terminologies and communication systems. Subdomains of biomedical or health care informatics include: clinical informatics, nursing informatics, imaging informatics, consumer health informatics, public health informatics, dental informatics, clinical research informatics, bioinformatics and pharmacy informatics. Rapid development of health informatics is due to advances in computer technology and a heightened awareness that medicine's knowledge-base is unmanageable using traditional paper-based methods.

Clinical informatics

Clinical informatics is a scientific discipline that aims to enhance human health by implementing information technologies and knowledge management systems to prevent human disease, deliver efficient and safe patient care, increase translational research, and improve biomedical knowledge systems. According to Gardner et al (2009), "...clinical informaticians transform health care by analyzing, designing, implementing, and evaluating information and communication systems that enhance individual and population health outcomes, improve patient care, and strengthen the clinician-patient relationship". Further, informaticians use their knowledge of patient care combined with their understanding of informatics concepts, methods, and health informatics tools to:

  • assess information and knowledge needs of health care professionals and patients
  • characterize, evaluate, and refine clinical processes
  • develop, implement, and refine clinical decision support systems
  • lead or participate in the procurement, customization, development, implementation, management, evaluation, and continuous improvement of clinical information systems.

See also SGS Canada - Clinical Trial Project Management 800px-Flag of Canada.svg.png

Canadian context

  • Canada's Health Infostructure is a national health information highway utilizing the newest information and communications technologies (ICTs).
  • Canada Health Infoway - Electronic Patient Records.
  • COACH - Canada's Health Informatics Association founded in 1975, is a leading and growing organization with a membership in excess of 750. It is in the forefront of the Canadian healthcare information resource and technology field by working co-operatively with health institutions, professions, associations, consultants, vendors of information technology and applications, government and regulatory organizations in the persuit of its mandate.
  • National Institutes of Health Informatics (NIHI) is Canada’s first national organization dedicated to fostering health informatics (HI) in research and education. As a virtual, self-sustaining institute of institutes, NIHI facilitates the development of a diversity of local initiatives dedicated to HI research and education. It is not an educational organization, but rather a catalyst for facilitating research and education at its component entities. NIHI has been launched with the participation of researchers and teachers from Canadian universities and colleges with existing or incipient health informatics education or research programs.

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