Changing Roles for Medical Informatics: Are You Ready?

Many health care organizations are looking for “visionary physician leaders” that can bring them far beyond electronic healthcare record implementation.

Informatics is not just for data analysts anymore – it can be applied to a  number of different industries.

Medical informatics — the marriage of health care delivery with information technology and data analysis — has already become an important tool in the medical industry. But the understanding of its importance is only expanding, as you can tell with the growth of medical informaticist executive positions and the need for people with the appropriate training: physician informaticians. That will ultimately mean an expanded need for people with a health informatics degree to do much of the necessary work.

A physician informatician is a medical doctor with a background in clinical informatics, or the study of information systems in a clinical setting, according to the site It’s a relatively new role made necessary by the increasing integration of IT into clinical practice. As recruiter Hillary Ross said in an interview with the site Healthcare Informatics:

[O]ver the past year, we’ve seen demand for certain types of positions. Among others, we’re seeing a rise in the associate chief medical information officer role, with some of the people being placed into that role managing the ambulatory sector in their organizations. One contributing factor is the acceleration in the purchase of physician practices or the salarying of physicians.

Her firm, Oakbrook, Ill.-based Witt Kieffer, has found that many health care organizations are looking for “visionary physician leaders” that can bring them far beyond electronic healthcare record implementation. These organizations want to mine the insights that data from the integration of EHR and other clinical systems can make possible. In keeping with that goal, an “increasingly important role” is the physician who oversees data warehousing and data management.

Academic medical centers are hiring physician informaticians “to build biomedical informatics research centers, programs, and curricula for their medical schools.” Vendors in the field hire them to help produce medical software and devices.

The drive toward having such expertise in-house has led to the position of the chief medical informatics officer, or CMIO. It’s the health care industry’s specialized equivalent of a CIO that can focus on the clinical uses of technology. (The CIO still typically is responsible for servers, networks, and desktop and laptop computers.)

As so many parts of the industry focus on hiring people with such highly specialized and rare types of backgrounds, the news is good for everyone in health informatics. The new positions show that senior management teams are seriously focused on using IT technology in hospitals, clinics, labs and other facilities. Such a focus means that they will need people to run and integrate the systems, analyze the data, and develop improvements to operations based on new insights. That’s why the growth of top executives in the field is a sign of many more future opportunities for those with the right education and experience.

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