On April 25th 2017, in Manchester, I attended a unique event on informatics. It was the joint conference of the EFMI (European Federation for Medical Informatics), Medical Informatics Europe Conference and the FARR Institute International Conference. Informatics is not my speciality at all and so I arrived with an open mind and keen to learn more, particularly as this year’s theme was ‘Informatics for Health’.
So, what is health informatics?
There are various definitions and explanations. Essentially, informatics is a science of processing data for storage and retrieval; and according to a medical dictionary it is the collection, classification, storage, retrieval, and dissemination of recorded knowledge. Health informatics is about data-intensive health science and care. It is a multidisciplinary field, involving disciplines such as information science, computer science, social science, behavioural science, management science, statistics and others. It can include aspects of “Big Data” and “Digital Health” programmes.
An over-arching theme of the ‘Informatics for Health 2017’ conference was “connected citizen-led wellness and population health”. There were many specific subject topics in five major areas (1) connected and digital health; (2) health data science; (3) human, organisational, and social aspects; (4) knowledge management; and (5) quality, safety and patient outcomes.
In addition to trying to keep abreast of some of the latest thinking in this rapidly developing field, I think it is important to respect and appreciate different disciplines and approaches. (Many projects I get involved in are cross-disciplinary).
It was an excellent conference including presentations, exhibitions and posters. ‘Delegates were able to share their knowledge, insights and experiences within data-intensive health science, healthcare and digital health business innovation.’ There are some great international and regional initiatives. Personally, it proved to be a thought-provoking experience and there is always more to learn.
Having explored a wide range of aspects of this exciting and challenging field, much of it very new to me and some a bit more familiar, I returned with a sense of how important it is for people to enhance and respect different disciplines. There is so much more to be achieved through co-operation, collaboration and communication.
Dr Julie Charlesworth