Biomedical Informatics Core Competencies

The AMIA Academic Forum appointed a special task force to develop a formal definition of biomedical informatics and to specify the core competencies that should drive curriculum and course design for graduate training in the field.  A paper on this work was published in JAMIA in 2012, but we present here the definition and core competencies that are summarized in that article.  See also AMIA's page on the Science of Informatics.

Member of the Task Force: Jack Smith (Chair), Leanne Currie, Peter Elkin, Larry Hunter, Todd Johnson, Ira Kalet, Casimir Kulikowski, Les Lenert, Mark Musen, Judy Ozbolt, Edward W. Shortliffe (ex-officio), Peter Tarczy-Hornoch, and Jeff Williamson (AMIA Staff)

Definition of Biomedical Informatics

Biomedical informatics (BMI) is the interdisciplinary 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.

Corollaries:

  • 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.

Core Competencies in Biomedical Informatics

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.

  • Acquire professional perspective: Summarize and explain the history and values of the discipline and its relationship to related fields while demonstrating an ability to read, interpret, and critique the core literature
  • Analyze problems: Analyze, understand, abstract, and model a specific biomedical problem in terms of data, information and knowledge components
  • Produce solutions: Use the problem analysis to identify and understand the space of possible solutions and generate designs that capture essential aspects of solutions and their components
  • Articulate the rationale: Defend the specific solution and its advantage over competing options
  • Implement, evaluate, and refine: Demonstrate an ability to carry out the solution, to assess its validity, and iteratively improve its design
  • Innovate: Create new theories, typologies, frameworks, representations, methods, and processes to address biomedical and informatics problems
  • Work collaboratively: Demonstrate the ability to team effectively with partners from diverse disciplines
  • Disseminate and discuss: Communicate effectively to audiences in multiple disciplines in persuasive written and oral form

BMI develops, studies and applies theories, methods and processes for the generation, storage, retrieval, use, and sharing of biomedical data, information, and knowledge.

All involve the ability to reason and relate to health information, concepts, and models spanning molecules to populations:

  • Theories: Understand and apply syntactic, semantic, cognitive, social, and pragmatic theories as they are used in biomedical informatics
  • Typology: Explain and analyze the types and nature of biomedical data, information, and knowledge
  • Frameworks: Describe and apply the common conceptual frameworks that are used in biomedical informatics
    • A framework is a modeling approach, programming approach, representational scheme, or an architectural design
  • Representation: Understand and apply representations and models that are applicable to biomedical data, information, and knowledge
    • A representation is a method of using data structures or semantic elements in a computational environment
  • Methods and processes: Recognize and apply the methods and processes used in different contexts of biomedical informatics

BMI builds on computing, communication and information sciences and technologies and their application in biomedicine.

  • Prerequisite knowledge and skills: Assumes basic familiarity with data structures, algorithms, programming, mathematics, statistics
  • Fundamental knowledge: Understand and gain experience applying the fundamentals of the field in the context of biomedical problems. For example:
    • Imaging and signal analysis
    • Information documentation, storage, and retrieval
    • Machine learning, including data mining
    • Networking, security, databases
    • NLP, semantic technologies
    • Representation of logical and probabilistic knowledge and reasoning
    • Simulation and modeling
    • Software engineering
  • Procedural knowledge and skills: For substantive problems, understand and apply methods of inquiry and criteria for selecting and utilizing algorithms, techniques, and methods
    • Describe what is known about the application of the fundamentals within biomedicine
    • Identify the relevant existing approaches for a specific biomedical problem
    • Apply, adapt, and validate an existing approach to a specific biomedical problem

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.

  • Prerequisite knowledge and skills: Basic familiarity with biological, biomedical, and population health concepts and problems including common research problems
  • Fundamental knowledge: Understand the fundamentals of the field in the context of the effective use of biomedical data, information, and knowledge. For example:
    • Biology: molecule, sequence, protein, structure, function, cell, tissue, organ, organism, phenotype, populations
    • Translational and clinical research: genotype, phenotype, pathways, mechanisms, epigenetics, sample, protocol, study, subject, evidence, evaluation
    • Healthcare: screening, diagnosis (diagnoses, test results), prognosis, treatment (medications, procedures), prevention, billing, patient, consumer, provider, families, healthcare teams, quality assurance, safety, error reduction, comparative effectiveness, medical records, personal health records, information security and privacy
    • Population health: detection, prevention, screening, education, stratification, spatiotemporal patterns, ecologies of health, populations
  • Procedural knowledge and skills: For substantive problems related to scientific inquiry, problem solving, and decision making, analyze and critically evaluate solutions based on biomedical informatics approaches
    • Frame complex biomedical informatics problems in terms of data, information, and knowledge
    • Analyze, select, apply, and evaluate biomedical informatics methods
    • Relate such knowledge to other problems within and across levels of the biomedical spectrum

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.

  • Prerequisite knowledge and skills: Familiarity with fundamentals of social, organizational, cognitive, and decision sciences
  • Fundamental knowledge:
    • Design: human centered design, usability, human factors, cognitive and ergonomic engineering
    • Evaluation: controlled trials, observational studies, hypothesis testing, ethnographic methods, field observational methods
    • Social, behavioral and organizational sciences: Computer Support for Collaborative Work, Social Networks, change management
    • Ethical, Legal, Social Issues: human subjects, HIPAA, informed consent, secondary use of data, confidentiality, privacy
    • Economic, social and organizational context of biomedical research, pharmaceutical industry, medical instrumentation, healthcare, and public health
  • Procedural knowledge and skills: Develop systems approaches to the solution of substantive problems in biomedical informatics
    • Frame complex biomedical informatics problems in terms of people, organizations, and socio-technical systems
    • Understand the challenges and limitations of technological solutions
    • Design, implement, and validate the biomedical informatics applications and interventions
    • Evaluate the impact of biomedical informatics applications and interventions in terms of people, organizations, and socio-technical systems
    • Relate solutions to other problems within and across levels of the biomedical spectrum

History and Documents Related to the Development of the BMI Core Competencies

AMIA began the process of articulating core competencies in biomedical informatics (BMI) at a retreat of subject matter experts representing various academic perspectives immediately following the AMIA 2001 Annual Symposium held in San Antonio, Texas. There was neither consensus around the definition of the domain, nor was there agreement about the scope of the core competencies. Leadership of the organization referred the activity to the AMIA Education Committee in late 2005 when then AMIA President and CEO Don Detmer asked Education Committee Chair John H. Holmes and his committee to prepare a white paper for the AMIA Board of Directors. On November 10, 2007, Dr. Holmes presented the white paper report to the AMIA Board and noted:

…that as certification programs appear and evolve, several issues need to be resolved, including the various forms this may take for AMIA. There also will be an increasing need for clarity about what certification, in whichever form it may take, actually means in terms of the knowledge and skills required. AMIA can and should continue to play a leading role in the process of resolving these issues. The Education Committee is recommending several specific recommendations for AMIA to pursue which include competency identification and modeling, continual resources to not only develop but also maintain and update competencies as they evolve over time, and continuing to pursue specialty or sub-specialty certification for informaticians.

AMIA’s project to develop clinical informatics as a medical subspecialty was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and well underway by this time, but efforts to fund the development of BMI Core Competencies were not successful. The AMIA leadership then referred this activity to the nascent Academic Forum who in their second annual conference held a consensus conference for member programs on July 10, 2008, in Rockville, Maryland with the ultimate goal of producing an AMIA endorsed set of core competencies. The conference preamble follows:

The growing role of information technology within health-care delivery has created the need to deepen the pool of informaticians who can help organizations maximize the effectiveness of their investment in information technology—and in so doing maximize impact on safety, quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of care. Today, there is no consensus on the curricula needed for informaticians throughout the discipline. It is now time for AMIA to hear different perspectives and work toward a common set of informatics education principles for our members, current and prospective member institutions, and the health information technology community. Educators in the field of informatics have long desired a national framework by which managers in health-care practice settings can define roles related to important informatics and HIT functions. A similar framework is needed to provide guidance to educators and educational administrators for the advancement of new and existing informatics training programs, as well as for faculty recruitment and development. An official AMIA informatics competencies policy document will provide the foundation for developing these frameworks.

Following the 2008 conference a task force was created by Academic Forum members and chaired by Jack Smith, then of the University of Texas Health Science Center Houston. In early 2009, Edward H. Shortliffe joined AMIA as President and CEO and convened three meetings of the task force who began the intensive process of describing in written form a set of BMI core competencies at meetings in May 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona, November 2009 in San Francisco, California, and in January 2010 in Houston, Texas. The work continued asynchronously in late 2009 and into 2010 and a draft set of BMI core competencies were presented at the Fourth Annual Conference of the AMIA Academic Forum held in Denver, Colorado for comment and endorsement. Comments were also sought form the informatics community using an on-line collection tool.

The activities described here within and 2002 and 2007 documents below preceded the authoring and formal publication of the AMIA Board White Paper: Definition of Biomedical Informatics and Specification of Core Competencies for Graduate Education in the Discipline.

AMIA Core Competencies 2002
AMIA Core Competencies 2007

Draft Manuscript Property of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA)