Informatics Experts Visit Members of Congress to Discuss Informatics Needs of the Emerging Workforce
Washington, DC, April 14—Approximately 35 members of AMIA, the association for informatics professionals, traveled to Capitol Hill today to meet with four Members of Congress and more than 30 legislative aides to discuss the roles of health information technology (HIT) and informatics in quality healthcare delivery, and how to accelerate their broad adoption in the healthcare sector. The group, comprising clinicians, allied health professionals from many states and healthcare settings, and scientists who work in the corresponding commercial sector was greeted by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who supports expansion of biomedical and health informatics, an emerging field in health care.
“The field of medical informatics has tremendous potential to improve the safety, quality, and cost-effectiveness of health care,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Enhancing our capacity to analyze and apply health data will lead to better informed care decisions and drive innovation in the delivery of care.”
Sen. Whitehouse authored a provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which established the Regional Extension Center (REC) program. The Rhode Island Quality Institute (RIQI), which he founded, is one of many such RECs now working around the country to help clinicians and other allied health professionals make the switch from paper-based medical practices to electronic health records.
“A well educated and well trained workforce is essential to meaningful implementation of electronic health records and the use of HIT,” says Edward H. Shortliffe, MD, PhD, FACMI, president and CEO of AMIA. “Experienced healthcare practitioners know that the need for information underlies all clinical work. A key correlate to information is knowledge; informatics provides the underlying principles that enable a health professional to gather and interpret data and information appropriately, to support the knowledge amassed during their careers.”With an acute shortage of physicians and nurses expected by 2020, there is a growing need for clinicians and others in health care to have additional knowledge and skills in HIT and informatics, the science that involves knowing how to use data, information, and knowledge to improve human health and the delivery of health care services. Currently, there are too few trained biomedical informatics scientists ready to join faculties, pursue research, and teach medical and graduate students.
“Informatics professionals are working on a variety of applications,” says Nancy M. Lorenzi, PhD, FACMI, chair of the AMIA Board of Directors and Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Health Affairs and Professor of Biomedical Informatics at Vanderbilt University, School of Medicine. “For example, using information available in a clinician’s office, informatics professionals can apply their informatics knowledge and create a system that will allow most people to gain access to their personal health information more reliably, readily, and comprehensively, and at the same speed they would expect when filing their tax returns or buying an airline ticket online. In addition individuals can couple their personal information with high quality health information to better manage their personal care.”
In addition to modernizing the health sector in the computer age, informatics underscores another important feature of health care, according to AMIA Public Policy Committee Chair David Bates, MD, FACMI, chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. "HIT is critical to improving safety in hospitals in a variety of ways, as well as helping smooth transitions when patients leave the hospital, which can help reduce the likelihood they will be readmitted,” says Dr. Bates. “Electronic prescribing is another example that clearly improves medication safety in hospitals.”