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Clinical Informatics granted Board-approved subspecialty status

Posted by on February 10th, 2012 Posted in: All Posts

An important step in professional recognition of clinical informatics (CI) occurred in September 2011. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), whose function is “to assist its Member Boards in implementing educational/professional standards to evaluate and certify physician specialists,” voted to approve and recognize CI as a subspecialty with an administrative home belonging to the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM). Though ABPM has sole responsibility for developing and administering the certification exam and the resulting certificates, it was joined by the American Board of Pathology as a co-sponsor.

The approval of the ABPM’s certification application allows board examinations to start with a target of Fall 2012, with the first set of physician certificates awarded sometime in early 2013. According to American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), rigorous CI core competencies will be influenced by publications on the subject that were developed by AMIA and its members, many of whom have pioneered the field and supported CI’s new status as an ABMS-recognized area of clinical expertise. Read more about AMIA’s vision of the role of the clinical informatician.

How might this affect health sciences librarianship? In a healthcare delivery world increasingly reliant on one electronic “play-space,” clinicians and their leadership eventually want the electronic health record (EHR) to seamlessly integrate with essential ancillary systems and resources. While the technology, institutional capabilities, and resources are not completely universal as yet, there are indications of movement in that direction. For more information on these developments, be sure to read the September 2011 issue (18:5) of JAMIA. The issue is dedicated to recent developments in the area of natural language processing techniques and their impact on unstructured content in health information systems, especially EHRs.

Though this designation covers physicians, there is a collateral need to develop similar designations for nursing and public health informaticians. In the meantime there are good degree and academic certification programs in clinical, nursing, and public health informatics which are open to clinical and non-clinical students. Many programs have online programs to accommodate workers who need to attend classes in the virtual realm. Additionally, Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) funding is available (to anyone eligible through a participating school) to strengthen workforce development in an assortment of informatics roles. Individual funding is provided in a variety of ways from participating community colleges and universities that administer the ONC funds. These HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) funds are short-lived, so if you are interested in CI, I encourage you to do your research now. These institutions are tasked with producing an informatics workforce to mitigate the U.S. shortage of qualified workers as addressed in previous health information technology (HIT) reform legislation.

For more information, please contact PJ Grier, SE/A Outreach and Access Coordinator.

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