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CLINICAL INFORMATICS

Clinical informatics is a subset of medical informatics that is concerned with the analysis, management and use of information in clinical practice.1


Clinical informatics has over the years been involved in the development of the following:
  • Information and Knowledge Databases: With the rapid increase in the amount of medical information, information and knowledge databases such as MEDLINE and EMBASE have become essential tools to healthcare professionals and researchers. These databases collect information from medical periodicals and provide a user interface that allows users to search for the information they need effectively. The databases provide anything from just the titles and references of medical publications (MEDLINE) to full text documentation with diagrams (TOXNET).


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  • Hospital Information Systems (HIS): A Hospital Information System is a combination of computer hardware and software with the necessary communications that aid the management of a hospital’s clinical and administrative information. They allow end-users access to patient records, laboratory results, staffing and scheduling, supplies and inventory, amongst other things. They also provide excess to external information sources such as MEDLINE.

  • Healthcare Networks: Healthcare networks bring together end-users and resources for better delivery of healthcare. They have been especially useful in the areas of Telemedicine, patient billing information, data access, especially as wireless handheld devices become more popular and computer-aided learning.

  • Electronic Medical Records (EMRs): Electronic Medical Records are the longitudinal record of a patient’s care. It combines information from the contact with primary healthcare as well as subsets of information associated with the periodic care provided by a healthcare institution.

  • Biomedical Signal Processing: There are now new low cost highly technologically specific patient monitoring equipment that are being used in the measurement of physiological parameters such as pressures, frequencies and temperatures, and they rely on sophisticated digital signal processing to do just that. The devices have also led to the development of desktop software applications that improve the analysis of signals such as EEG, ECG, EMG and EOG. All these have led to significant improvement in areas of clinical care such as Intensive Care Monitoring.

  • Medical Imaging: Medical images provide a good deal of diagnostic information to the clinician. Medical images include Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Singular-photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT), X-rays, ultrasound, Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT) and Electrical Source Imaging (ESI). Advances in Information Technology have brought about improvement in the quality of images, image compression techniques that reduce the amount of storage, remote transmission of digitised images and the development of imaging management and communication systems such as PACS (Picture Archiving and Communications Systems). PACS have been integrated into hospital information systems (HIS) to manage medical images locally within the hospitals, as well as allowing remote access by clinicians that are offsite.

References

  • Degoulet, Patrice.; Fieschi, Marius. Introduction to clinical informatics. Health Informatics Series, Springer. 1999

Useful Links

  • Informatics Review
    Free online journal that specialises in Clinical Informatics.
    http://www.informatics-review.com/

  • Ten essential clinical informatics skills
    Article by Enrico Coiera, author of the bestseller Medical Informatics, the Internet and Telemedicine.
    http://www.rcsed.ac.uk/journal/vol44_4/4440013.htm

  • Clinical Informatics
    Website by the Vancouver Island Health Authority on how clinical informatics can aid healthcare.
    http://ppo.viha.ca/strategy/informatics/

     

 

 

QUICK LINKS
International Medical Informatics Association
American Medical Informatics Association
UK Health Informatics Society
British Computer Society Health Informatics Committee
European Federation for Medical Informatics
American Nursing Informatics Association
American Telemedicine Association


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