Informatics is becoming a popular word in health care. In the past, limitations on data sharing have restricted the use of aggregated data in better understanding ways we can improve patient safety, at lower cost. Ethical considerations such as patient confidentiality, and technical constraints such as data storage and analysis software, have worked against the collaboration which could see innovation implemented more quickly.
In the article Introduction to Health Informatics Lynden Crawford explains:
Health informatics is defined as ‘an evolving scientific discipline that deals with the collection, storage, retrieval, communication and optimal use of health related data, information and knowledge. The discipline utilises the methods and technologies of the information sciences for the purposes of problem solving, decision making and assuring highest quality care in all basic and applied areas of biomedical sciences’ . The term ‘health informatics’ can sometimes be debated or replaced by ‘medical informatics’ in different geographical locations or political environments.
The full article discusses the emergence of the concept as technical and social influences converge.
We’re developing the concept of Clinical Informatics – what might be seen as a sub division of health informatics – in which we aggregate data from monitoring devices and apply pattern recognition techniques in efforts to anticipate needs for clinical intervention.
As the simplest of examples we might point to barometers and the weather. It may not be raining now, but falling pressure indicated by the barometer tells us we should take the umbrella when leaving the office. Over time the pattern of falling barometric pressure preceding rainfall has become well established.
According to our research there are patterns in the relationships between monitored parameters which can precede episodes. We’ve used Bayesian Artificial Neural Network techniques to identify some of these patterns and calculate probabilities of episodes occurring.
How we describe what we’re doing is a challenge since as far as we know our research is breaking new ground. Until something better comes along Clinical Informatics seems a good choice.