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What Is Clinical Informatics?

CT scanning makes use of clinical informatics.
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  • Written By: Rachel Burkot
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
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Clinical informatics is a method of organizing information in the health care industry. It blends information technology, computer science and biomedical informatics. Clinical informatics is a field that is constantly striving to make information more accessible in the simplest way. It involves storing, managing and accessing important health records.

Clinical informatics uses technology and computers to store data at an institution such as a hospital, doctor’s office or other health care facility. Since there are so many papers and files to process at any medical setting, an efficient system for keeping track of it all is required. Medical informatics becomes a way to organize and process the information. Examples of information stored in health informatics include disease research, patient backgrounds, statistics and treatment plans.

Clinical computing is typically the easiest way to store the required information. This use of technology allows not just for the entry of facts and figures, but for the automatic recording of a patient’s vital health statistics, such as temperature or blood pressure, into his or her electronic medical records. Clinical informatics can also be used to communicate between doctors at different hospitals or clinics. Through a process known as telemedicine, doctors can exchange pictures of medical conditions across the globe.

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Imaging is another procedure that relies heavily on health care informatics. This involves a CT scanner, which uses software algorithms to recreate a three-dimensional image of the body parts. Bioinformatics also highlights, graphs and charts the body’s natural processes through a convenient data display, making it simple for doctors to review an individual patient’s chart. This leads to the use of clinical informatics as a way to determine decisions about treatments. Information technology makes it possible for immediate feedback to be available about which drugs should be administered to the patients based on their condition, symptoms, previous reactions and allergies.

Since clinical informatics is a multidisciplinary field, it combines data representation, cognitive science, policies, telemedicine and data discovery. The ability to quickly and efficiently retrieve information makes the creation of one organized database indispensable. Clinical informatics provides for this and makes the representation and interpretation of complex medical terms quite simple. Cognitive science comes into play to help those in the medical community understand, process and perceive artificial intelligence and computing. While telemedicine refers to the way patient data is transferred using information technology, policies evaluate this technology on the larger health care system.

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backdraft
Post 5

I have a good friend that is getting a maters degree in this very subject. In a year and a half he will have a Masters in Health Care informatics. He has told me that there is the possibility to go and do further graduate work in order to earn a PHD. This is a testament to how important a field this is right now. I have no doubt that in just a few years time my friends skills will be in high demand.

jonrss
Post 4

@nextcorrea - I agree that things are getting better. I work as a medical courier and spend a lot of time in labs talking with pathologists and other technicians. They very rarely use pen and ink at this point. At one lab they have a very complicated bar code scanning system that ensures that every detail of a patients treatment is recorded and saved. The drugs they are given and the amounts, the tests that are run, the fluid samples that are drawn and the analysis performed on them is all carefully and efficiently entered into a computer system.

Talking to the people in these labs, they say that the technology has completely changed their work over the last 20 years and that the pace of change is growing. Most expect to be doing things completely differently just 10 years from now. It gives me hope that someone, somewhere will be able to sort out this healthcare mess our country is in.

nextcorrea
Post 3

My grandmother was recently in the hospital and I was really impressed by how technological the record keeping process had become. Many of the nurses carried little hand held devices that kind of looked liked the signature pads that UPS guys use. They would enter all kind of information into these that went straight into her digital medical records. Some other the nurses also carried laptop computers. I'm sure this is just the beginning of all the changes that need to be made, but it seems like there is some momentum in the right direction.

chivebasil
Post 2

A big part of the cost and complication of health care is related not to treatments, but rather to administration. A surprising amount of the people who work in a hospital never work with patients at all. They perform clerical and other administrative duties trying to keep track of the tremendous amounts of data that are generated in clinical settings. The more that we can use technology to streamline and economize this process, the less it will cost to maintain the system and the more patients will see positive outcomes.

ZsaZsa56
Post 1

This may seems like a pretty dry subject, and in practice it is, but it is also vitally important to the future of healthcare. There has been so much talk lately about the ballooning costs of health care in America and the seemingly thousands of solutions people have rolled out to try and solve the problem. One solution that has found support across the political spectrum is in the area of clinical informatics.

It is shocking how few of our medical records exist in digital form. This means that doctors, nurses, pathologists and others involved in this industry rely on cumbersome paper records to track a patients health. This is both expensive and vulnerable to error and manipulation. If these records could be digitized they could be shared, modified, enhanced and circulated easily. This would lead to greater efficiency and lower cost. It is not the silver billet solution that will solve the whole problem, but it will do a lot to move the health care industry into a more sustainable future.

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