Clinical informatics is a growing area in the field of medicine. It involves the use of technology applied to clinical decision making, electronic health records to store patient information more efficiently, quality control measures to reduce healthcare errors, and numerous other areas. Although some physicians may find some of these very components of medicine burdensome, many also recognize they are catching mistakes and improving workflows and handoffs as patient loads continue to rise. The basic premise of clinical informatics is to gather data and come up with solutions to problems within the healthcare field or challenges in providing optimal patient care.
In a similar area, although perhaps considered part of health administration, the role of Chief Innovation Officer often combines a lot of the skills and responsibilities that may be seen in clinical informatics positions. Physicians working in health innovation are often responsible for ensuring that health institutions are on the forefront of health advances and technologies, which currently involves the application of digital health measures to improve patient health outcomes and provider work environments.
Chief Information Officer and Chief Medical Informatics Officer
|Chief Innovation Officer|
▪ Represent a clinical view in health information technology meetings
▪ Delineate changes to electronic medical record templates or other systems
▪ Provide suggestions for healthcare delivery based on available institutional data regarding patient stay, quality of care, cost, and other models
▪ Lead the institution in adopting new innovative healthcare models or technologies
▪ Investigate key problems and challenges in healthcare and finding or coming up with solutions
▪ Lead clinical adoption or integration of workflow systems
▪ Offer insight from a health technology and clinical care perspective, bridging two important parts of healthcare delivery
▪ Large healthcare systems
▪ Government organizations
|▪ Large healthcare systems (this position is gaining popularity)|
▪ Healthcare software company
▪ Consulting company
▪ Insurance company
Job responsibilities in the field of clinical informatics include roles such as Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Chief Information Officer, potentially Chief Innovation Officer, and other positions in health information technology, digital health, or innovation technology.
Various job responsibilities may include:
- Providing suggestions to vendors regarding medical application or technology design
- Leading clinical adoption or integration of workflow systems
- Providing suggestions for healthcare delivery based on available institutional data regarding patient stay, quality of care, cost, and other models
- Representing a clinical view in health information technology meetings delineating changes to electronic medical record templates or other systems
- Providing evidence-based guidelines, drug contraindications or risks, or other information that can be implemented in meaningful ways throughout the healthcare system technology infrastructure
- Offering insight from a health technology and clinical care perspective, bridging these two important parts of healthcare delivery
- Research and development of software and technologies to be implemented in healthcare institutions
Work Environment and Schedule
Physicians who work in clinical informatics may find a work schedule that mimics what is seen for those in administrative or tech-related jobs, with relatively stable hours such as 8 to 5. Although informatics may sound like career that would involve solo work or autonomy, these jobs often require a large amount of collaboration between different departments to implement new systems, gather clinical data and information, or brainstorm solutions to workflow or quality and safety measures. Those that work in research or development may work alone more of the time than consultants or those in leadership; however, communication and teamwork are necessary components to integrating new systems in clinical informatics.
Often, technology and system changes can be a source of frustration for fellow physicians, so those working in clinical informatics require cool heads to problem-solve effectively, communicate well, and educate team members on new systems or solutions. Extensive travel could be required for those working in clinical informatics as consultants. Consultants may be asked to travel to institutions to work on product implementation, workflow changes, or new technology integration.
Required Skills and Training
There is no question that this is a skilled field, and not something that you can necessarily jump into overnight. Although it may not currently be a prerequisite for some positions in clinical informatics, qualifications for these positions over time will include more education, degrees, or specific training that better equips a clinician for this career. Certification programs or degrees may lead to more recognition amongst peers in the field. Those less established in their careers or with less experiential training may benefit from a more rigorous training program.
Required skills include:
- Formal training is recommended, and this is likely to become more important as training programs in clinical informatics are developed and expanded
- Computer proficiency with knowledge of analytics and cognitive science
- Excellent analytical ability and problem-solving skills
- Ability to work on multidisciplinary teams with a variety of stakeholders
Residency, Licensure, and Training Requirements
Residency and an active license may be required for positions within a hospital system. Software companies who hire physicians as consultants or advisors may not have such stringent requirements, but do expect relevant experience or skills.
Is This a Career for You?
Physicians who have an interest in evidence-based medicine, quality improvement, workflow efficiency, and are technologically inclined may enjoy positions in clinical informatics. Clinicians from emergency medicine, internal medicine, or family medicine backgrounds, in particular, often have a good grasp of working with professionals from different specialties. These physicians may be well suited to advise vendors, companies, or health systems on the challenges facing medicine, the coordination of care, and how technology interfaces with these components.
If you are not technologically inclined, become frustrated with new system implementations or changes, or would rather be walked through a problem than solve it yourself, you may want to explore other opportunities in non-clinical medicine.