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Clinical Informatics: An In-Depth Look

Students interested in medical field careers are hearing a lot about “clinical informatics” these days. This term, applied interchangeably with “healthcare informatics,” describes a new field of study that is becoming as integral to health care as the ability to take blood and perform surgery.

As the job market is currently exploding with opportunities for graduates of clinical informatics degrees, now is the right time to take a closer look at what this new field is all about.

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Transforming Health Care for Physicians

Clinical informatics is the study and use of data and information technology to deliver health care services. In addition to helping hospitals and other health care organizations streamline their operations and deliver better results for patients, clinical informatics is instrumental in improving patients’ ability to monitor and maintain their own health.

According to a report by the American Society for Clinical Pathology, “clinical informatics is at the heart of multidisciplinary medical teams and their ability to work together.” This is because clinical informatics make it possible for physicians to gather medical data at the systems level and analyze it from the perspective of the consumer.

Transforming Health Care for the Consumer

The past ten years have brought a shift in financial responsibility for healthcare onto the shoulders of patients. The outrage that patients feel about lengthy wait times, inflated drug prices and meager insurance coverage is significantly reduced by the implementation of clinical informatics.

From in-home, on-demand video consultations to cloud-based applications that monitor patients’ symptoms and remind them about appointments and medications, information technology allows for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness in health care, something that can make every patient immediately feel a little better.

Creating a New Subspecialty

In truth, clinical informatics is nothing new. Health care systems and providers have always designated a person or team to maintain large amounts of patient data and laboratory reports, and translate those into diagnoses, therapies and protocols. Liron Pantanowitz, MD, FASCP, President of the Association of Pathology Informatics, says that this would traditionally be the job of a hospital’s chief pathologist.

But today, with the wealth of information technologies at our disposal and the size and scope of healthcare organizations growing every year, it’s impossible for this job to be adequately performed by a lone physician.

“People have realized that…the chief information officer alone cannot address all informatics issues that are specific to the practice of medicine,” Dr. Pantanowitz says. “The medical boards have rightly recognized that informaticists need to be certified so they’re competent to practice in the field and fulfill this much needed role.”

Immediate Openings on the Job Market

In the past, ambitious students would have to choose among their interests in medicine, technology and research. But with the development of masters’ degrees in clinical informatics, these students can combine their passions into one holistic discipline.

By doing so, they play an instrumental role in serving their society. They also experience an increasingly rare phenomenon among university graduates these days: immediate job openings. In fact, it’s not uncommon for masters’ degree students in clinical informatics to receive multiple job offers before they even graduate.

Thanks to the burgeoning field of clinical informatics, the disconnect between health care organizations and the patient in need of care is growing smaller.

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