What Clinical Informatics Is Not – MedLancr

CT Lin, MD, CMIO, University of Colorado Health

I’m reading a book called Mindfulness in Plain English; another book my daughter left lying around the house with her annotations in it. I love the underlining and ‘YES!’ marks and also the ‘is it though? You shouldn’t wait to be perfect…’ comments. Just a few short years ago, she was in the playpen — now I love to see her mind at work.

Anyhow, mindfulness meditation is something that I aspire to: I have had months where I meditate daily, and there are times when I forget and lose the habit. I have found it calming and centering and have found clarity through the practice.

You can refer to my blog series ‘CT Meditates, a comedy’ from 2017.

What I love about this current book is the chapter on what meditation is not. I love it. It helps define it by talking about what it is not. For example, an annotated list:

What Meditation Is Not

  • Misconception 1: meditation is just relaxation.
  • Misconception 2: meditation means going into a trance.
  • Misconception 3: meditation is mysterious and cannot be understood.
  • Misconception 4: meditation is for saints; not regular people.
  • Misconception 5: meditation is running away from reality.

I love this idea. Writing about the negative space helps clarify what something is. So, here goes.

As with meditation, there are a lots of misconceptions about what Clinical Informatics is.

It can be defined as the science and practice of managing information by capturing, storing, analyzing, retrieving, and using data to improve the care of patients and populations.

Sure, whatever. Perhaps it is more meaningful to talk about misconceptions.

What Clinical Informatics Is Not (a breakdown of common misconceptions)

  • Informatics people are the secret Star Chamber of the EHR. They wear propeller hats or nerd glasses. <– Yes, these are my nerd kids wearing propeller hats and nerd glasses. And yes, I am proud of them.
  • Informatics helps you set up your computer. (That’s Information Technology)
  • Informatics has to do with servers, network cables, and WiFi problems. (Still, IT)
  • Informatics is a way to force people to do things they don’t want to do. (No, no, no)
  • Informatics is only about designing things, we leave training to others. (Ok, partly right, but we all fail if we don’t train adequately.)
  • Informatics is for people who prefer computers and don’t like talking with humans (No. Please do not send us “the doctor who is our resident computer nerd.”)
  • Informatics is quick and easy — just put a hard stop there, and done! (No. We do not “force those other doctors to do this thing because it makes it more convenient for me and my project,” unless it is also good for patient care and clinical leaders all agree.)
  • Informatics has no need for customer/user (patient or clinician) feedback. (Just no)
  • Informatics is a special and arcane field that only computer geeks will understand. (Sigh. We fail if this happens,)
  • Informatics is a field of medicine where most people tell you, no, we can’t do that.
  • Informatics always takes months to achieve the goal or complete a project. (When we do Sprints, we can amaze our docs.)
  • Informatics is unnecessary: an EHR project only needs a subject matter expert and a computer analyst. (Sorry, without an informaticist to translate, such a project is likely to fail.)

Informatics is not “Hard stop, and done!” Instead it is building relationships, understanding the pressures and desires of patients, providers, staff, and understanding the ultimate goal of health care.

Indeed, it is perhaps one of the major advances of modern healthcare. I would argue, the field of “clinical informatics” should eventually become standard curriculum for all physicians.

CMIO’s take: Health care is about using our best science, our best workflow, and our best teamwork. We use this information to heal individual patients and improve the health of our communities. We need great, up-to-date information to do that. Only by capturing, storing, analyzing data, creating new knowledge, and delivering that seamlessly to the provider at the bedside (or directly to the patient) can we grow, improve, and evolve as a learning health system.

[This piece was originally published on The Undiscovered Country, a blog written by CT Lin, MD, CMIO at UCHealth and professor at University of Colorado School of Medicine. To follow him on Twitter, click here.]


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