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What is Informatics?

Biomedical and health informatics applies principles of computer and information science to the advancement of life sciences research, health professions education, public health, and patient care. This multidisciplinary and integrative field focuses on health information technologies (HIT), and involves the computer, cognitive, and social sciences.

Informatics is the science of how to use data, information and knowledge to improve human health and the delivery of health care services. Health IT is part of informatics and an essential aspect of AMIA, but technology and technological considerations are only one component of the association’s work. Health IT enables advancements in health care by providing the tools with which to set knowledge in motion. Biomedical and health informatics has developed its own areas of emphasis and approaches that sets it apart from other professions and disciplines Biomedical informatics (BMI) is the interdisciplinary, scientific field that studies and pursues the effective uses of biomedical data, information, and knowledge for scientific inquiry, problem solving and decision making, motivated by efforts to improve human health.

  • BMI develops, studies and applies theories, methods and processes for the generation, storage, retrieval, use, and sharing of biomedical data, information, and knowledge.
  • BMI builds on computing, communication and information sciences and technologies and their application in biomedicine.
  • BMI investigates and supports reasoning, modeling, simulation, experimentation and translation across the spectrum from molecules to populations, dealing with a variety of biological systems, bridging basic and clinical research and practice, and the healthcare enterprise.
  • BMI, recognizing that people are the ultimate users of biomedical information, draws upon the social and behavioral sciences to inform the design and evaluation of technical solutions and the evolution of complex economic, ethical, social, educational, and organizational systems.

The growing role of HIT has created the need to broaden and deepen the pool of workers who are able to help organizations deal effectively with their investment in information technology and, thus, enhance the prospects for major improvements in the safety, quality, effectiveness and efficiency of care. Biomedical and health informaticians understand the workflow of organizations as well as the potential and limitations of information technology. Informaticians conduct research and apply findings to improve processes and propose solutions to technical, clinical, and organizational challenges hampering successful technology implementations.

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Areas of Practice

AMIA supports the following practice areas:

Translational Bioinformatics is the development of storage, analytic, and interpretive methods to optimize the transformation of increasingly voluminous biomedical data, and genomic data, into proactive, predictive, preventive, and participatory health. Translational bioinformatics includes research on the development of novel techniques for the integration of biological and clinical data and the evolution of clinical informatics methodology to encompass biological observations. The end product of translational bioinformatics is newly found knowledge from these integrative efforts that can be disseminated to a variety of stakeholders, including biomedical scientists, clinicians, and patients.

Clinical Research Informatics involves the use of informatics in the discovery and management of new knowledge relating to health and disease. It includes management of information related to clinical trials and also involves informatics related to secondary research use of clinical data. Clinical research informatics and translational bioinformatics are the primary domains related to informatics activities to support translational research.

Clinical Informatics is the application of informatics and information technology to deliver healthcare services. It is also referred to as applied clinical informatics and operational informatics.

Consumer Health Informatics is the field devoted to informatics from multiple consumer or patient views. These include patient-focused informatics, health literacy and consumer education. The focus is on information structures and processes that empower consumers to manage their own health--for example health information literacy, consumer-friendly language, personal health records, and Internet-based strategies and resources. The shift in this view of informatics analyzes consumers' needs for information; studies and implements methods for making information accessible to consumers; and models and integrates consumers' preferences into health information systems. Consumer informatics stands at the crossroads of other disciplines, such as nursing informatics, public health, health promotion, health education, library science, and communication science.

Public Health Informatics is the application of informatics in areas of public health, including surveillance, prevention, preparedness, and health promotion. Public health informatics and the related population informatics, work on information and technology issues from the perspective of groups of individuals. Public health is extremely broad and can even touch on the environment, work and living places and more. Generally, AMIA focuses on those aspects of public health that enable the development and use of interoperable information systems for public health functions such as biosurveillance, outbreak management, electronic laboratory reporting and prevention.

Changing the Way We Approach Health and Healthcare

Through education, training, accreditation and certification, AMIA supports the current and next generation of informatics professionals by:

  • Providing members opportunities to grow professionally, no matter what their career level or discipline.
  • Fostering collaboration and networking to support members’ work to improve people’s lives.
  • Expanding members’ leadership opportunities within the association and in the field.