OHSU

What is Biomedical Informatics?

Defining "Informatics"

One of the biggest challenges for the field of informatics is the variability in the word(s) that precede informatics. The most comprehensive term to describe the field is biomedical and health informatics (BMHI). Sometimes just components of these broader terms are used, such as biomedical informatics or health informatics. But all of them refer to the field that is concerned with the optimal use of information, often aided by the use of technology, to improve individual health, health care, public health, and biomedical research. Practitioners of informatics are usually called informaticians (sometimes informaticists) and view their focus more on information than technology.

Sometimes narrower words appear in front of informatics.  Other uses of informatics in biomedical and health-related areas include:

  • Clinical informatics - Generally refers to informatics applied in healthcare or individual health settings. Sometimes medical informatics is used to describe this area. The application of informatics focused on specific healthcare disciplines usually includes the name of that discipline, such as nursing (nursing informatics), dentistry (dental informatics), pathology (pathology informatics), etc.
  • Bioinformatics - The application of informatics in cellular and molecular biology, often with a focus on genomics. The sub-term translational bioinformatics is used to describe bioinformatics applied to human health.
  • Imaging informatics - Informatics with a focus on imaging, including the use of PACS systems to store and retrieve images in health care settings.
  • Consumer health informatics - The field devoted to informatics from a consumer view.
  • Research informatics - The use of informatics to facilitate biomedical and health research, which subsumes the frequently described area of clinical research informatics that is widely used to describe informatics applications in clinical research. This increasingly includes an emphasis on translational research, which aims to accelerate research findings from bench (biological) to bedside and into widespread clinical practice.
  • Public health informatics - The application of informatics in areas of public health, including surveillance, reporting, and health promotion.
  • Health information management (HIM) - While not a formal is the discipline that has historically focused on the management of medical records. As the medical record has become electronic, this field has been in transition and increasingly overlaps with informatics.

For further details on BMHI, including further reading materials and an online lecture, please visit:

http://www.billhersh.info/whatis

http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6947/9/24/