In the early 1960s when even ‘computer science’ was new, the phrase ‘medical computer science’ was used to refer to the subdivision of computer science that applies the methods of the larger field to medical topics. The term ‘Biomedical Computing’ has also been used for a number of years.
‘Medical informatics’ originated in Europe with a broder scope than ‘medical computing’. Shortliffe used the term ‘Medical Informatics’ throughout the first texbook on the subject in 1990. Medical Informtics was defined as the ‘rapidly developing scientific field that deals with the storage, retrieval and optimal use of biomedical information, data, and knowledge for problem solving and decision making’. We have listed the some of the definitions from textbooks and journal articles (tabulated by year).
The gigantic amounts of research on genormics brought “Bioinformatics” to the forefront. Even the name ‘Medical Informatics’ maybe changing to accomodate the new developments.
Coiera states that, ‘ Informatics is still exploring its shape as a principled science and at some point it is more important to come to a view of what that shape is, rather than await perfection’. A formal definition of ‘this shape’ may be useful now.
‘Medical Informatics (MI) is as much about computers as cardiology is about stethoscopes.’
If physiology literally means ‘the logic of life’ and pathology ‘the logic of disease’, then Medical Informatics is the logic of healthcare. ‘It is the rational study of the way we think about patients, and the way that treatments are defined, selected and evolved. It is the study of how medical knowledge is created, shaped, shared and applied. Ultimately it is the study of how we organize ourselves to create and run healthcare organisations.’
‘Inflammatory bowel disease’ was the term to describe two major illnesses: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Similarly ‘informatics’ is a term which embraces two major areas– information science and information technology. ‘Information science’ is the study involving the building blocks of information, its types, characteristics, its flow within a system, mechanisms in which it can be structured and classified, its value and how humans interact with it. ‘Information technology’ is related to those devices and processes which have been developed to store, process, analyse and display information.
‘Medical Informatics is the field that concerns itself with the cognitive, information processing, and communication tasks of medical practice, education, and research, including the information science and the technology to support it.’