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Friday, October 18, 2013

What is an Informaticist?

So I have to write a term paper (actually three) for some of my classes.  For one of them I started to organize my thoughts, and modified an exercise I learned in a change acceleration class to help me do so. The goal of the exercise was to generate my "elevator speech", and my topic was the role of an informaticist.
"The role of an informaticist is to facilitate the development of systems and processes which enable questions to be answered from available data."
Systems and processes need not be "computer programs".  They can be card files, paper forms or other methods.  Facilitation means that the informaticist is not necessarily the sole person involved in the development of these systems and processes.  What informaticists do is bring knowledge about how to use information to the process of designing such systems.  The statement doesn't say who is asking or answering the questions.  Part of the informaticists role may be in making data available.

If I plug in various adjectives, I can describe various specializations of informatics and informaticists in much the same way:

Medical Bioinformaticists work with (principally) biomedical data, and help biomedical staff answer the questions they have about it.
Clinical informaticists work with (principally) clinical data, and help clinical staff answer the questions they have about it.
Public health informaticists work with (principally) public (or population) health data, and help public health practitioners answer the questions they have above it.
Consumer Health informaticists work with a variety of health data, and help consumers answer the questions they have about it.

This worked well enough for me as an elevator speech that I proceeded with the next step (focusing on consumer informatics), which is the kinds of questions that a consumer has.

The questions that a consumer has with respect to health data are related to three segments of time:

  1. Understanding the past.  How did this happen? What caused it?
  2. Interpreting the present  What can I do about it?  What does this mean for me now?
  3. Predicting the future.  What is likely to happen?  What can I do to change it?
Let's see where this goes.


  1. Time just does not hit me as the right denominator, although it is certainly an important factor. I would think that value is the better denominator to consider in terms of helping to answer the questions of a 'consumer'. This especially when healthcare is not free and so their options in terms of the health data they are represented with and the actions they take should be based on an understanding of their current values in terms of health, the estimated potential for health in the options available to them, and the time available to realize the health to be derived by the option. Very similar to what you have described, but think it puts the emphasis on the need for consumers to be able to rationalize, based on their values, the decisions presented by the data before them.

  2. I agree with Nate,
    It would be better to be the flow chart of progress, be it good or bad, past present and future, which yes is time but concentrating on the happenings.
    so for a dose of Dehli belly, it would be ate bad food, bad night up to bathroom 10x , weak in morning, only sipping on water[with sugar and salt added] improved after 48hrs. OR writing a flow chart of how to cope with a case of. and the expected outcomes and when to seek additional help with the guidelines of symptoms and signs on the way. Just my 2c worth