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Connecting the informatics community to the HIT industry

Considering a career in biomedical or health informatics?

As I learned during a recent American Medical Informatics Association 2019 Annual Symposium panel discussion, pathways into informatics abound.

Informatics professionals — those who bring together the science of how to use data, information and knowledge to improve human health and the delivery of healthcare services –bring valuable perspective to bridge the clinical and IT realms. Their work is essential for successful electronic health record (EHR) implementation and adoption that ultimately improves patient safety and care quality, as well as reduces cost and clinician burden.

Bringing together informatics professionals

I recently participated in an AMIA panel discussion on industry challenges and opportunities for individuals interested in informatics.

The panel was comprised of members of AMIA’s Informatics Partnership Council (IPC). IPC members represent their respective AMIA Corporate Members who serve as liaisons to AMIA. The panel included colleagues from Merck, Wolters Kluwer Health, M*Modal, RTI International and Intelligent Medical Objects.

The 100-plus-member audience included high school, college and informatics fellowship graduate students as well as informatics professionals from academia, healthcare organizations and industry.

Many paths to informatics

The discussion began with personal stories of our journeys to the industry, typically non-linear.  My path began while in high school, where I became fascinated with computer programming by way of the Apple II Plus. I soon put this aside and moved on to college, where I studied biochemistry and went on to medical school and internal medicine residency training.

It wasn’t until I joined a private practice in 1994 that my interest in computers re-emerged with use of a fully functional EHR created by my partner using off-the-shelf software. I could efficiently create and review legible documentation, print or fax lab orders or prescriptions, and rapidly query the EHR to identify care gaps, such as patients overdue for mammograms or colon cancer screening.

When I moved to a new practice, I created my own EHR, again with off-the-shelf software, which I used for nine years. I eventually became Medical Director of Clinical Informatics for our healthcare system and led design and implementation of computerized physician order entry (CPOE) and physician clinical documentation, and led clinical decision support and clinical analytics efforts as well.

In 2014, I left that role and brought my clinical and informatics experience to Allscripts, where I work internally and with clients who use our EHRs. My focus more recently is on artificial intelligence projects.

Highlights from the panel

We discussed our typical day and the knowledge/skills important for those considering working in the HIT industry, such as:

  • Working in teams
  • Strong communication skills
  • Keeping up with current and rapidly changing technologies impacting healthcare, like artificial intelligence and interoperability.

Focusing on innovation and finding opportunities for collaboration between the healthcare industry and academia were also stressed. The audience had many questions, some related to balancing medical practice with a career in informatics and internship opportunities in the industry.

Opportunities for informatics professionals

The career opportunities for informatics professionals are plentiful. Though not my initial career vision, I find that this industry enables me to continue highly rewarding informatics work similar to what I did while working for a health system. Now, however, my work touches many health systems and patient communities that can benefit.

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