Please note that you can always click on an image in my postings and it will render a clear full sized version in a separate browser page! Also please note that this blog is best viewed with Firefox and Chrome

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Wide World of Medical Informatics

I got thinking the other day (and have thought this for quite a long time- as far back as 1999) that if there was one niche or sub-field that really falls right into my interests and background it is medical informatics. I have degrees in cell and molecular biology, as well as computer science. I have been fortunate to work in hospitals, medical research facilities, and in medical schools at various levels. Not to mention my career as an Oracle consultant.

I have been very very busy recently, and have decided to try and post regularly again. This particular subject motivated me to do so! To start with, the subject "The WIDE World of..." is misleading. It is true that Medical Informatics requires a very wide skill set as opposed to what most strong oracle developers individually, or most medical practitioners individually have. Each of these are very deep careers in themselves! However, we can also say the subject itself, as opposed to the knowledge needed to DO the work is not particularly wide. Nor is it very established and mature! Schools only recently in the last decade have even developed patchwork curriculum studies to earn certificates or master's degrees in bioinformatics, or medical informatics, or medical analytics.

To top it off, I have noted that such top schools including Northwestern University, right here in Chicago, Illinois, USA, don't have anywhere near the strict admissions standards applied to these newer programs in their infancy. You don't even have to take the GMAT or GRE (graduate admissions exam) to matriculate! It is recommended, but not required. Admissions In most cases, this indicates a program or field of study still in it's infancy and looking to establish itself as a solid undeniable mainstream option.

I do believe that as of now, it is undeniably necessary and important. However, most medical institutions are in the stone-age. Any very solid technical person that steps into hospitals or even doctor's offices will see some systems that are VERY complicated and state of the art. Other systems, such as records systems and software programs are buggy, poorly laid out, or cause the practitioners (nurses, doctors, executives) headaches when trying to enter data, or more importantly...retrieve data that is accurate, up to date, and understandable! The real focus...informatics...is important. The analytics and informatics methodologies in a business intelligence lifecycle simply are lacking in major healthcare organizations. I am not just talking about hospitals, but health insurance companies too!

I have personally sat in doctor's offices where multiple doctors and even medical execs can't stress enough how much they hate having to use EPIC Systems software, or Cerner Software.
I don't know enough about them to explain the issues, but I have seen the pained expression too many times. I have plenty of friends that worked from a technical or manager perspective for major healthcare insurance companies that ALL complain about the same thing: old and not too sharp technology OR sharp technology being used the wrong way which costs even more $$.

I've read it and heard it in person so many times that I've decided to try and write a few blog posts on this topic. The field is ripe. The education is now available. The technologists (Oracle BI and DW folks) are very much present and ready. The doctors know just enough of what they want but VERY few have the skills that we Oracle BIDW developers and managers have.

I want to provide a link for readers to pursue:
Saving Lives With Oracle

What might a VERY general role of the Oracle scientist, or informatics individual be?

Medical Informaticists fill a vital role in health care systems management, verifying and certifying critical computer system components:

  • Certifying medical systems for accuracy and completeness

  • Validating medical decision support systems and expert systems for clinical diagnosis and treatment

  • Verifying the accuracy of Oracle database output results and reports

Is it necessary to have a M.D.? I do not think so. However, this is not like ANY other consulting or business engagement. The doctor or the healthcare organization has a lot of knowledge and very detailed ideas of how things need to work. This is just not something the average consultant can pick up in a few meetings! Unless you have some experience in scientific industries, or have worked in a medical or healthcare settings, or have an actual M.D., you'll likely need to work with a person or small team from the organization that knows all the ins and outs of healthcare, diagnoses, patient records, records management, prescription management, insurance, and core hospital measures and operating practices!

Do not be held back by that though! The reason I believe this field has been too slow to advance, is lack of education, and extremely high amounts of knowledge necessary. I will continue writing on this topic. I'd like to disuss things such as data mining, analytics, and other topics that are relevant!