What is ‘Medical Informatics’?

The term medical informatics may sound a bit strange at first but we would like to dedicate this section of the website to explaining why the area of medical informatics is becoming more and more important in our modern society.

We’ll start off with the fact that the medical sector is both extremely important and complex at the same time. For instance, if we look at a regular hospital, we see many people with countless different expertise and craftsmanship. The lady at the counter knows all about logistics, manages crucial appointments with doctors and patients and regulates timetables of surgeons across the hospital. Then we have many different doctors who are specialized in either brain surgery, ophthalmologists and/or physiotherapy. The hospital director manages funds and government grants to keep the hospital running and to provide the people with their salary.

So all in all the healthcare sector is a crossroad of many different disciplines. This is were the area medical informatics comes into place. Medical informatics is located at the intersection of information technology and different disciplines of medicine and health care. The main reason why the science of medical informatics is at the center of many disciplines within the healthcare sector is because it focuses on the whole field of medicine and healthcare entirely.

Why Medical Informatics?

It is important to understand that healthcare in general is fundamentally different from medical science. Healthcare focuses more on the ‘art of medicine’ whereas medical science is more about connecting academic aspects of medicine to the basic principles of biology and health in general. One could say that healthcare is about skills and science is related to knowledge.

The reason why its important to understand the difference between the two is because the field of medical informatics focuses on a combination of both the art and science of medicine. In order for a complete healthcare system to function correctly and keep developing overtime it’s necessary to specialize both in the art of health care and the science of medical knowledge. Given these facts we can state that medical informatics aims to gather knowledge of the natural sciences and special knowledge or clinical experience from the field of healthcare.

In short, the field of medical informatics can be seen as one where people develop and assess methods and systems for gaining, processing and applying patient data grounded knowledge from scientific research of natural sciences.

For more detailed information about the scientific and/or academic nature of medical informatics we would like to refer you to the Handbook of Medical Informatics, written by J.H. van Blemmel and M.A. Musen back in 1998. In here you can read more about the fundamental behind the are of medical informatics as well as more in depth theories on why and how medical informatics is seen as a modern science.

More practical information concerning medical informatics can be found at various university websites around the world. Many universities offer either a bachelor of master program in medical informatics. We made a brief selection of a couple of universities that offer these courses. So if you’re interested in academic development within the field of medical informatics we strongly urge you to take a look at one of the following courses:

  • Erasmus MC (Netherlands)EMC-logo
    Within the University Medical Center in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) there is a medical informatics research group that focuses on developing new methods for gaining, processing and managing data and knowledge in both practiced healthcare as well as bio-medical sciences.
  • Michigan University (USA)
    The open website of the University of Michigan (USA) offers a free for all online course on the subject of medical informatics. Study material can be downloaded from their website and anyone who plans to follow the course will get a basic understanding of the fundamental principles behind informatics within the medical and healthcare sectors in the USA.