A new subspecialty is drawing physicians from diverse medical backgrounds and career settings who aim to combine informatics with providing health care. More than 400 physicians recently became board certified in clinical informatics – the first class of diplomates in the freshly minted subspecialty.
Clinical informatics (CI) has "now become a subspecialty because there are so many people who believe it’s important," said Dr. William Hersh, an internist and chair of the department of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology at Oregon Health and Science University, Portland.
"More and more health care organizations and certainly, almost every large health care organization, have someone who plays the role of chief medical informatics officer. By having a subspecialty, you then give professional recognition to those physicians who play this role. It really takes expertise by someone who understands medicine and understands information systems to make sure things run smoothly."
CI is the application of informatics and information technology to the delivery of health care services. The domain includes a wide spectrum of areas including clinical documentation, order entry systems, system design, system implementation, and adoption issues. While already incorporated into many practices, CI was not a recognized subspecialty until it was approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties in 2011. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) spearheaded the new subspecialty, working for more than 5 years to define and help design the discipline. Physicians who are board certified by any of the 24 American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) member boards can now also certify in CI through an exam offered by the American Board of Preventive Medicine. In December 2013, 455 new subspecialists across the country became certified.
One of those alumni is Dr. Hersh, who also serves as director of the AMIA’s clinical informatics board review course.
"I’m proud to be a part of the pioneer class of leaders in this field," Dr. Hersh said in a statement. "When you look at the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s (ACGME’s) definition of the informatics discipline, the operative word is ‘transform.’ Every day, informaticians are working in their health care settings to change how we do things, to improve patient care and population health."