Health informatics is a developing field that is becoming progressively important to the quality and effective distribution of healthcare. Now any modern health organization can’t function efficiently without an electronic database storing, processing, and communicating patient-related data. With the increasing complexity of chronic illness and the number of medications prescribed in an elderly population, information technologies and decision support tools can be used to help to prevent medication errors, improve the analyzing capabilities of the health and medical data (Lui, 2010). As an academic discipline evolves, one naturally asks what makes it different from existing fields and how do the practitioners of the discipline stand out from current workers. This chapter of the thesis presents the link between health informatics (HI) especially Clinical trials data and the graph databases, the development of health informatics (HI) as a discipline and how this relates to the people who work in it will be investigated. Health informatics (HI) is the scientific discipline concerned with the creation, storage, processing, transmission, and use of health-related data, information and knowledge (Shortliffe & Cimino, 2006, p. 24). It is a broad field and its workers have a wide range of responsibilities and tasks. Part of the reason for the breadth is the natural evolution of health informatics (HI) as a discipline. The origin of the formal discipline was strongly influenced by the development of the electronic computer. Indeed, the term informatics came from European developments in computer science.
Informatics was probably first created by the father of German computer science, Karl Steinbuch, in his 1957 paper, “Informatik: automatische informationsverbeitung”, which translates to “Informatics: automatic information processing” (Widrow, Hartenstein, & Hecht Nielsen, 2005). The french computer science pioneer, Philippe Dreyfus, used the term in establishing the Société d’Informatique Appliqueé in 1962 (Fourman, 2002, p. 1) Informatics became more to do with information rather than simply computers. However, readers should be wary; there are many who consider informatics a field of computer science, or
indeed as a synonym (Buerck & Feig, 2006; Kane, Brewer, Goldman, & Moidu, 2006; Smith & Buerck, 2007). Whether information exists in print or in bits and bytes, health knowledge cannot be used if it cannot be accessed. Psychology, and in particular, cognitive science, indicates how health practitioners think and work and how computer systems might best be designed to support them e.g. understanding the cognitive workings of health workers that lead to the failure of a neonatal intensive care decision-support system (Alberdi, et al., 2000). Health informatics (HI) supports all processes including administration, governance, clinical care and research. Since the informational problems encountered in certain areas can differ in content, subareas of health also have their own informatics knowledge; one can recognize subfields such as medical informatics, nursing informatics, public health informatics, patient (consumer) informatics and pharmacy informatics. As for computing, it has been said that the computer scientist is a tool smith, and his success is determined by whether people use his tools (Brooks, 1996). Healthcare tracks a specific biomedical scientific paradigm, where there is an obligation on understanding the scientific principles behind healthcare activities. This differs from the engineering perspective to which IT professionals are accustomed (Tichy, 1998; Zannier, Melnik, & Maurer, 2006). Drug therapy is a good example; health professionals require scientific proof that a drug is beneficial, often in the form of controlled experiments (clinical trials).Clinical informaticians: This is a role that extends the idea of the ad hoc health IT worker from early history; these people were health workers who picked up IT as it became incorporated into health organizations. Today, a formal place is recognized for those who hold dual roles as clinicians (doctors, nurses, etc.) and health informaticians. Health Informatics is, and should be, driven by health informational problems. The best exposure to such informational problems is active clinical practice. These people are seen by general clinicians as understanding the nature of health service delivery and as a referral point for informational problems. Indeed, clinical informaticians can make up part of a clinical team. Just as the ad hoc pioneers became beacons for health informatics (HI), they too become a visible resource for others and are the modern day champions. Recently, the American Medical Informatics Association began work on formalizing clinical informatics as a specialist area for physicians; these individuals combine their knowledge of patient care and informatics methods and tools to assess the knowledge needs of health workers and patients, and to develop and evaluate clinical computer systems (Safran et al., 2009). Health Informatics is the scientific discipline concerned with how best to use data, information and knowledge in medicine to improve patient care. Information science principles and computer and communications technology are the tools that Health Informatics professionals use. The field is still evolving but one can demonstrate that professionalism exists. There is a body of scientific theory, set of skills, knowledge and competencies, and professional attitudes shared by practitioners, despite a range of informatics roles. The need for Health Informatics specialists is clear. The domain expert-IT paradigm is insufficient for non-trivial health computing. The Health Informatics professional brings her knowledge of health and a wider kit of tools and understanding to apply to informational problems. The Health Informatics professional is likely to become increasingly important to healthcare organizations, clinicians and patients as the cost and complexity of healthcare increase and as technologies advance and become more useful. Education will continue to play an important role in the qualification of Health Informatics professionals, despite the various standards and curricula present today. Similarly, certification/accreditation and regulatory bodies will become increasingly relevant; a number of professional associations currently exist and matters of jurisdiction will have to be addressed.