MS in Biomedical Informatics
Frequently Asked Questions
This following information will help you understand the nature and scope of careers in medical informatics.
What is Biomedical Informatics?
“Medical informatics concerns the collection, storage, communication, retrieval, analysis, and interpretation of information. Ultimately, it offers the means by which we improve understanding, management, and communication of medical information so that we can apply it to provide the best possible health care.”
People involved in informatics use tools such as clinical guidelines, medical languages, and information and communication systems to assist the study and dissemination of medical knowledge. Medical informatics attempts to answer such questions as:
- How to communicate new medical knowledge
- How to devise rational structures for pooling clinical evidence, communicating it effectively, and applying it to routine care
- How to organize processes that minimize the resources used in medical practice while at the same time maximizing the benefits to patients and staff.
For more definitions and history on medical informatics, please visit Wikipedia.
What can I do with a degree in biomedical informatics?
People who have a degree in biomedical informatics have a great variety of career opportunities. The type of informatics job that an individual can perform is, to some extent, dependent on his or her background. People with health care backgrounds (e.g., medicine or nursing) are more likely to utilize their expertise for their informatics work in roles such as a chief medical officer or a nursing information officer. People who do not have health care backgrounds are more likely to work in the wide variety of other jobs that are widely available. They may become
- chief information officers
- local project managers
- project designers
- systems analysts
The following is a list of the settings in which they work
- hospitals and health systems
- health information technology system vendors
- eHealth companies
- pharmaceutical companies
- academic institutions
The current general consensus on the types of jobs performed in informatics is that there are three general levels of informatics practice (Modified from Covvey et al. Pointing the Way, 2001)
|Level of Practice||Type of Work||Example Job Titles|
|Academic||Conducting research and/or teaching in an academic center||
Working in an operational informatics setting for a majority of working time
Chief Information Officer
Spending part of his or her working time as a local expert and interface with informatics or information technology professionals
Chief Medical or Nursing Officer
Examples of informatics projects [Taken from Career Focus: Medical Informatics by Sims 317 (7173): British Medical Journal, 1998]
- Design of electronic patient records both locally and nationally
- Development and delivery of public health information
- Construction of clinical information support systems
- Design and maintenance of protocols based on evidence
- Development of terminology, coding, and classification systems
- Evaluation of the impact of information technology on the clinical process, clinical outcome, organizations, and resources
- Clinical audit
- Database construction
- Design of clinical workstations
- Data management
- Use of internet technology in medicine
For a sampling of job opportunities currently available, visit the American Medical Informatics Association’s Job Exchange web site.
Want to know more about Biomedical Informatics?
For more in-depth discussions on medical informatics that defines the field and describes its motivations, applications, and future directions:
- Hersh, W. (2002). Medical informatics - improving health care through information. Journal of the American Medical Association, 288: 1955-1958.
- Sims, J. (1998). Career Focus: Medical Informatics. British Medical Journal, 317 (7173):
There are a number of organizations concerned with medical informatics:
- American Medical Informatics Association
- International Medical Informatics Association
- National Library of Medicine
- American Health Information Management Association
- eHealth Initiative
- Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research
- Health Information Management Systems Society
- Association of Medical Director of Information Systems
- Medical Library Association