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Acad Med. 2009 Jul;84(7):818-20. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181a81f94.

Commentary: Informatics in biomedicine and health care.

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  • 1Biomedical Informatics, Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona 85004, USA. greenes@asu.edu


During the last two decades, biomedical informatics (BMI) has become a critical component in biomedical research and health care delivery, as evidenced by two recent phenomena. One, as discussed in the article by Bernstam and colleagues in this issue, has been the introduction of Clinical and Translational Science Awards. Perhaps even more important has been the recent, arguably long overdue, emphasis on deployment of health information technology (IT) nationally. BMI utilizes IT and computer science as tools and methods for improving data acquisition, data management, data analysis, and knowledge generation, but it is driven by a focus on applications based in deep understanding of the science and practice, problems, interactions, culture, and milieu of biomedicine and health. Building from Bernstam and colleagues' distinction between BMI and other IT disciplines, the authors discuss the evolving role of BMI professionals as individuals uniquely positioned to work within the human and organizational context and culture in which the IT is being applied. The focus is not on the IT but on the combination--the interactions of IT systems, human beings, and organizations aimed at achieving a particular purpose. There has never been a time when the need for individuals well trained in BMI--those who understand the complexities of the human, social, and organizational milieu of biomedicine and health--has been more critical than it is now, as the nation seeks to develop a national infrastructure for biomedicine and health care, and as these fields seek to broadly deploy IT wisely and appropriately.

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