AMIA to Develop Clinical Informatics as Certifiable Specialty

The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) will attempt to elevate applied clinical informatics to the level of medical subspecialty with the help of a $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

The funding, announced last week, will help build the foundation of a certification system in medical informatics that medical boards could adopt, according to AMIA president and chief executive Don Detmer. “What we’re doing is creating the essential documents for that process to unfold,” Detmer says.

“This is saying that clinical informatics has moved from intramural status to varsity,” Detmer says. “We’re turning it from a serious avocation into a full profession.”

Specifically, AMIA will produce a document spelling out the core content of a medical informatics certification program and another listing the training requirements for a physician to earn a subspecialty certificate. “We will be creating the kinds of materials you need for American boards of medical specialties to recognize informatics as a subspecialty,” Detmer explains.

“After this stage, then we have to get the approval from those boards and then move forward.”

AMIA will involve medical specialty boards to recognize informatics as a subspecialty rather than try to create a distinct certification board for informatics because clinical informatics is inherently multidisciplinary, according to Detmer.

Indeed, it was a series of talks with about seven specialty boards that convinced AMIA to apply for the grant about a year ago. “They expressed approval of the idea,” Detmer says. “That was a very bright green light.”

While the American Nurses Certification Center, an affiliate of the American Nurses Association, has had a specialty certification for informatics nurses since 1996, no such program exists for physicians. “AMIA sees applied clinical informatics as not being essentially different for doctors as it is for pharmacy or nursing or any other health profession,” Detmer says.

Nurses and other health professionals will participate in workgroups for the new program, much as they do in AMIA’s 10x10 Program, which aims to train 10,000 people in health informatics by 2010. While Detmer is serving as principal investigator for the grant-funded research, his co-principal investigator is not a physician but a researcher with a Ph.D., namely Benson Munger of the University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute.

The process for developing certification in medical informatics is specific to physicians, but Detmer believes that any documents that come out of the grant work will be useful in other informatics programs.

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