Medical Informatics MIA
I enjoyed reading the article "Informatics Moves to the Head of the Class" (June Bio·IT World). Thank you for spotlighting the National Library of Medicine (NLM) training programs in medical informatics and bioinformatics, of which I am a graduate (Yale, 1994).
Bioinformatics appears to receive more media attention and offer more status, career opportunities, and compensation than the less-prestigious medical informatics.
This disparity, however, may impede the development of next-generation medicines. Bioinformatics discoveries may be more likely to result in new medicines, for example via pharmacogenomics, when they are coupled with large-scale, concurrent, ongoing clinical data collection. At the same time, applied medical informatics, as a distinct specialty, is essential to the success of extensive clinical data collection efforts, especially at the point of care.
Hospital and provider MIS personnel are best equipped for implementing business-oriented IT, not clinical IT. Implementing clinical IT in patient-care settings constitutes one of the core competencies of applied medical informaticists.
Informatics specialists with a bioinformatics focus even those coming from the new joint programs usually are not proficient in hospital business and management issues that impede adoption of clinical IT in patient care settings. Such organizational and territorial issues are in no small way responsible for the low utilization of clinical IT in patient care settings.
It will be important for medical informaticists focused in the clinical domain and bioinformaticists specializing in the molecular domain to collaborate with other specialists in order to best integrate clinical and genomic data.
Further information on these issues can be found in the book Organizational Aspects of Health Informatics: Managing Technological Change, by Nancy M. Lorenzi and Robert T. Riley (Springer-Verlag, 1995). Various publications from the medical informatics community, such as the American Medical Informatics Association (www.amia.org) and the International Medical Informatics Association (www.imia.org), are also useful.
Scot Silverstein, MD
Director, Published Information Resources & The Merck Index
Merck Research Laboratories
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