What is Clinical Informatics?

Many people are curious about this new field of Clinical Informatics (CI) and what it encompasses. Unfortunately, there is not one clear cut definition of this subspecialty of medicine. Even among those of use who work in this field, there is not yet consensus, as CI is so broad and touches so many different aspects of the practice of medicine that each of us comes at it from a slightly different perspective. Also, the rapid rate of evolution in this field causes us to redefine CI on a constant basis.

The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) defines clinical informatics as, “the application of informatics and information technology to deliver healthcare services.” According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), CI “promotes the understanding, integration and application of information technology in healthcare settings.” Clinical Informatics is defined in the ACGME program requirements as “the subspecialty of all medical specialties that transforms health care by analyzing, designing, implementing, and evaluating information and communication systems to improve patient care, enhance access to care, advance individual and population health outcomes, and strengthen the clinician-patient relationship.”

Clinical Informatics sits at the intersection of information science, information systems, workflow and processes, and leadership and management. It is how data is acquired, structured, stored, processed retrieved, analyzed, presented and communicated. CI transforms data into useable actionable information.

Clinical Informatics is not the same thing as information technology (IT) or computer science. We are not computer doctors who fix broken computers or jammed printers. We also are (mostly) not computer programmers who code. From the point of view of CI, healthcare data is our primary focus, and IT is merely one of several sets of tools at our disposal to accomplish our goals and objectives.