Exploring Current Issues in Medical Informatics

WittKieffer was grateful to return to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) Annual Symposium in Washington, D.C. recently. My colleague Zachary Durst and I were fortunate to attend, along with more than 2,300 medical informatics professionals and academicians.

This year’s theme was “Informatics: Building the Evidence Base” built on the concept that scientific evidence is the language of trust in healthcare. The Symposium provided an excellent opportunity for knowledge sharing, problem-solving and planning for the future as demands on informatics professionals increase and new opportunities arise. It was inspiring to be immersed with so many informatics leaders representing a diverse group of organizations from across the U.S. The following emerged as areas of emphasis and focus by leaders in the field during the symposium.

The Economics of Informatics:

One of the challenges in a variety of settings for informaticians is demonstrating the return on investment of an informatics enterprise. A panel consisting of executives in clinical informatics from diverse practice environments (academic, community health, and commercial industry) discussed organizational misconceptions around clinical informatics, common resource limitations faced by informaticists, and strategies to enhance the value proposition of clinical informatics.

Outlining strategies to present return on investment in terms recognized and valued by organizational leadership is an essential skill to empower those who work in informatics that may help unlock often-constrained organizational resources. Mitigating the idea that informatics is an organizational cost center and can perhaps be a revenue center requires enhancing the value proposition for clinical informatics and successful strategies to obtain resources. Ideas included getting informatics professionals involved early in planning for projects to effectively embed resources and commitment. In addition, providing real metrics related to time and cost savings associated with informatics efforts and the ability to quantify those variables in business terms was seen as most effective in environments where resources can be an issue.  

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:   

Forty sessions, workshops and other meetings related to diversity, equity inclusion were conducted throughout the week at the Annual Symposium. AMIA has established a number of opportunities to address issues and create dialogue around diversity, equity and inclusion. These include meetings focused on communication, recruitment, health equity and anti-racism in healthcare, retention and advancement, and education, governance and policy. These discussions allow members to identify and develop actionable agendas for diversity, equity and inclusion in a variety of areas of informatics practice. These initiatives can be applied to impact scholarship, research methods, leadership and development, and institutional policies.

The utilization of social determinants of health to help address healthcare disparities has become a significant pillar in the attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Everything from the design of studies to the methodology of research can be impacted by biases. The ability of healthcare professionals to recognize those inherent biases and the ability to develop strategies to overcome those are seen as critical for informatics and the future of healthcare. 

Career Growth and Advancement in Informatics:

AMIA offers a variety of support to informaticians in terms of professional development and support. The growth in informatics roles in a variety of sectors, from industry to academia and even governmental service, have meant a greater variety of roles and pathways are now available in the field. In particular, the opportunities available in commercial healthcare are growing rapidly and provide different environments for informaticians to apply their discipline. There are differences in resources and time to discovery between traditional academic provider settings and new technology companies – the speed with which projects need to be completed is a clear differentiator between the two. 

The ability to navigate the landscape has become more challenging as well as after Covid-19. Areas of exploration included a discussion on the market view of taking career breaks or substantial transitions mid-career. Panelists also discussed where opportunities in the field exist, competencies in demand, the importance of building a brand via social media and participation in professional associations as well as traditional networking. 

The presentations and discussions at the AMIA Annual Symposium reinforced the incredible importance informaticians play in addressing healthcare’s challenges and identifying solutions to dramatically move the needle to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, display economic value and expand the growth of the field professionally.