The field of health informatics (or medical informatics as it is sometimes called) is still a relatively young one compared to other areas of biomedicine and the health sciences. Nevertheless, its impact on the quality and efficiency of healthcare is crucial.
This second, extensively revised and updated edition of Health Informatics: An Overview includes new topics which address contemporary issues and challenges and shift the focus on the health problem space towards a computer perspective.
An overview is provided of the health informatics discipline and the book is suitable for use as a basic text in both undergraduate and postgraduate curricula. Preparing students for practice as health professionals in any discipline, it deliberately avoids focusing on any one speciality.
The publication is divided into six sections: an overview, basic concepts, applications supporting clinical practice, service delivery, management and clinical research and education. With contributions from many distinguished authors, this book is a valuable resource for healthcare professionals and students of health informatics alike.
This text was originally published in Australia in 1996. Since then, the world has changed significantly. The emergence of the Internet and World Wide Web with its enormous possibilities had just begun, standardisation was in its infancy, broadband was unheard of, we had just started thinking about the Y2K bug, supply chain management was more theory than practice, Google wasn't even founded, nor would anybody have had dreams or nightmares about Google Health or Microsoft HealthVault to store your personal health information and make it accessible when needed. To say it with the words of Thomas Friedman , since 1996, the world has been flattened in the sense that many people have been empowered significantly and now have a far more equal opportunity to achieve, create, collaborate and compete with each other than used to be the case, in healthcare as well as in any other business.
Thus, this second edition has been extensively reviewed, updated and a number of new topics have been included in order to meet contemporary issues and challenges. The text has a strong focus on health viewed from a computing perspective. It was compiled primarily for health professionals who now require knowledge about how these new technologies of information and communication may be used to enhance their practice. It aims to provide an overview of the health informatics discipline. The contents reflect what we consider are the basics for continuing education purposes and for inclusion into any curriculum which prepares a student for practice in any of the health professional disciplines. It is suitable for use as a basic text in both undergraduate and post graduate curricula. Each chapter can be expanded upon as required. Guidelines for health informatics education are provided in the last few chapters of this text.
This text is not all inclusive or exhaustive; most of the chapters could be expanded individually into a book on its own.
This text deliberately avoids a focus on any one of the health professions. Health care has become more and more integrated between the various sectors ranging from primary care to hospitals, as well as becoming more interdisciplinary between the various health professions. Also there is a trend to empowering the patient to play a more active part in decision making. All this requires clinical information to be available across sectors and across professions and necessitates integrated clinical (computer) systems such as ‘professional’ or ‘clinician’ workstations that support the focus on the patient as the centre of care rather than a discipline or departmental focus. Clinical data from multiple sources are integrated and support multiple types of clinical decision making. This also has implications for the language or terminology used and may well influence changes in how individuals practice their profession at the point of care.
The book is divided into six sections, an overview of the discipline, basic health informatics concepts, the application of health informatics supporting clinical practice, health care service delivery management, clinical research and health informatics education. We first present the history of computing in health followed by an overview of the discipline and outline some of the basic principles underlying this health discipline, including the need to balance the technology with our underlying commitment to patient care. In section two we discuss the basic concepts which need to be grasped about computing and explain how these apply to the health professions to best meet the needs as detailed in section 1. The next four sections demonstrate how these new technologies can assist our daily work, in clinical practice, management, education and research enabling us to realize our global e-health vision.
We thank the Spanish language editorial team, Carola Hullin Lucay Cossio, Erika Caballero Muñoz, Lorena Camus, Alejandro Gigoux Múller, Antonio Jose Ibarra Fernandez, and Maria Pilar Marin Villasante who managed the translation process prior to this book's publication by Mediterraneo, Santiago, Chile.
 Friedman T.L. 2006 The world is flat: The globalised world in the twenty-first century. 2nd expanded edition. Penguin Books Ltd., London UK.
In considering a ‘history’ of Health Informatics it is important to be aware that the discipline encompasses a wide array of activities, products, research and theories. Health Informatics is as much a result of evolution as planned philosophy, having its roots in the histories of information technology and medicine. The process of its growth continues so that today's work is tomorrow's history. A ‘historical’ discussion of the area is its history to date, a report rather than a summation.
As well as its successes, the history of Health Informatics is populated with visionary promises that have failed to materialise despite the best intentions. For those studying the subject or working in the field, the experiences of others' use of Information Technologies for the betterment of health care can provide a necessary perspective. This chapter starts by noting some of the major events and people that form a technological backdrop to Health Informatics and ends with some thoughts on the future. This chapter gives an educational overview of:
• The history of computing
• The beginnings of the health informatics discipline
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