Medical Informatics: A Specialty Disputed? Or Just Misunderstood?

A conversation with ChatGPT….

This is part of the OpenAI ChatGPT NerdMDs Experiment

I sat down today with my special guest, ChatGPT, to discuss this interesting topic:

Is practicing medical informatics, a board certified sub-specailty of preventative medicine, really practicing medicine?

Check out our conversation below to see an example of how the technology learns through a conversation, and even came up with an analogy I had not thought of before.

Me (Dr Dale): Hello!

ChatGPT: Hello! How can I help you today?

Me (Dr Dale): Hello ChatGPT, is there a specialty board certification for physicians in medical informatics?

ChatGPT: Yes, there is a specialty board certification for physicians in medical informatics. The American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM) offers a subspecialty certification in Medical Informatics. To be eligible for the certification, physicians must first be board certified in a primary specialty, such as internal medicine or pediatrics, and then meet additional requirements specific to the medical informatics subspecialty. These requirements include a certain amount of training and experience in medical informatics, as well as passing an examination.

Me (Dr Dale): There is often debate whether a physician practicing in medical informatics is a clinical role. How would you help explain to someone new to learning about medical informatics, how to consider this work the same as any other clinical subspecialty of medicine?

ChatGPT: Medical informatics is a subspecialty of medicine that involves the use of technology and data to improve the delivery of healthcare. Physicians who practice in this field use their knowledge of medicine and technology to design, implement, and evaluate systems and tools that can be used to support clinical decision-making, improve patient outcomes, and streamline healthcare processes.

Just like any other subspecialty of medicine, such as cardiology or oncology, medical informatics requires a deep understanding of the underlying medical conditions and the healthcare system. Medical informatics physicians use their knowledge of medicine to design systems that meet the specific needs of clinicians and patients, and they use their understanding of technology to ensure that those systems are efficient, user-friendly, and secure.

In this way, medical informatics is a clinical subspecialty, as it is directly applied to patient care. Medical informatics physicians work closely with other physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to ensure that the systems they design are integrated seamlessly into the healthcare environment and are used to improve patient outcomes.

It is also important to note that medical informatics is not limited to just physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, and other healthcare workers also play an important role in the field.

Me (Dr Dale): You are so right it is such a team effort! Can you help provide an clinical analogy between medical informatics and another more well known medical specialty to help others understand how medical informatics can be more similar then they realized to another well accepted medical specialty?

Chat GPT: Just as radiologists use imaging technology and specialized knowledge to diagnose and treat medical conditions, medical informaticians use technology and specialized knowledge to improve the delivery of healthcare. Both radiologists and medical informaticians use their understanding of the underlying medical conditions to ensure that the tools they use are accurate and effective.

Both radiologists and medical informaticians are also part of a team of healthcare professionals, they work closely with other physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers to ensure that patients receive the best possible care. Radiologists and medical informaticians also use their expertise to continuously improve the technology and processes they use to deliver care, and they are constantly learning about new advances in their field.

Radiology Analogy

Me (Dr Dale): And what if the counter-argument is made that in this example, while similar, a radiologist is directly engaged in patient care and billing directly for patient care, how could you respond?

Chat GPT: It is true that radiologists are directly engaged in patient care and billing for patient care, while medical informaticians may not always be directly engaged in patient care in the same way. However, it is important to recognize that the work of medical informaticians has a direct and significant impact on patient care.

Medical informaticians work to design and implement systems and tools that support clinical decision-making, improve patient outcomes, and streamline healthcare processes. By improving the delivery of healthcare, medical informaticians are ultimately improving patient outcomes.

In addition, Medical informaticians also have a critical role in ensuring the privacy and security of patient’s electronic health information, this is vital for the delivery of patient care.

It can also be argued that the work of medical informaticians is not always directly billable, but it is essential for the overall functioning of the healthcare system. Just as a hospital administrator’s work is not directly billable but is essential for the overall functioning of the hospital, the work of medical informaticians is essential for the overall functioning of the healthcare system.

Me (Dr Dale): Based on this conversation, what advice would you have for a leader of medical informatics, who is at an institution where the leadership needs more convincing towards the business case for investing in a department of physician medical informatics?

Chat GPT: Based on our conversation, my advice for a leader of medical informatics who is trying to make the business case for investing in a department of physician medical informatics would be:

  1. Emphasize the financial benefits: Highlight the cost savings that can be achieved through improved efficiency, the potential for increased revenue, and the importance of compliance with regulations.
  2. Show how medical informatics can improve quality of care: Provide examples of how medical informatics can improve the quality of care for patients, such as through improved clinical decision-making and the identification and management of high-risk patients.
  3. Position it as an investment in the future: Emphasize that investing in medical informatics can give the organization a competitive advantage and help it prepare for future changes in the healthcare landscape, such as the shift towards value-based care.
  4. Use data and research to support your case: Use data and research from reputable sources to support your arguments, and be prepared to answer any questions about the potential return on investment.
  5. Show how medical informatics is essential for the overall functioning of the healthcare system: Emphasize how medical informatics is essential for the overall functioning of the healthcare system, similar to other non-billable but essential functions such as hospital administration.
  6. Highlight the team effort: Emphasize the importance of collaboration and teamwork in medical informatics, and how it is not limited to just physicians but also nurses, allied health professionals, and other healthcare workers play a critical role in the field.
  7. Show the examples of other institutions: Provide examples of other institutions that have successfully implemented medical informatics and the benefits they have seen as a result.

It’s also important to note that the leadership needs to understand that the return on investment will not be immediate, but the benefits will accrue over time and will be invaluable in the long run.

Me (Dr Dale): Thank you so much for the excellent conversation. Before we go, do you have one word of advice for a young physician who is interested in exploring a future career in medical informatics?

Chat GPT: My one word of advice for a young physician interested in exploring a future career in medical informatics would be: “network.”

Networking is essential in any field, but it is especially important in a rapidly evolving field like medical informatics. Building relationships with other professionals in the field can provide you with valuable insights, mentorship, and opportunities for collaboration.

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