The ever changing world of Informatics, Global Health and eHealth.

As a student of Master of Science in Health Informatics in University of the Philippines, Manila, one crucial requirement is to create your own blog. As a newbie blogger, this will be my official blog for the subject HI201 – Health Informatics under Dr. Iris Thiele Isip-Tan. The same will act as my personal blog when I am servicing the Tardis, upon the request of the Doctor. When I applied for this course, I had a somewhat limited understanding of what I was getting into. I learned from my interview, that the role of health informatics is to act as the middleman between Information Technology and Health Sciences. A more specific definition is stated below.

Health informatics is the study of resources and methods for the management of health information. This area of study supports health information technology, medical practice, medical research and medical informatics. [1]

Driving Question:
What is the relevance of informatics to global health and eHealth?

As you can see, the Concept Map is quite simple. This is to lay out in the simplest terms the relevance of informatics to global health and eHealth.

 

Week1 Concept Map

 

To better start the discussion, a definition of terms will give us a background to work with. From this ever changing definition of terms, we can hopefully give a clear cut explanation on the driving question for the week.

 

Definition of  Informatics

Informatics is the study of the structure, behaviour, and interactions of natural and engineered computational systems. [2]

Definition of Global Health

Global health is derived from public health and international health, which, in turn, evolved from hygiene and tropical medicine. Global health can be thought of as a notion (a world of healthy people, a condition of global health), or a mix of scholarships, research, and practice (with many questions, issues, skills, and competencies) [3]

Definition of eHealth

There were many variations on the definition that characterizes eHealth as the “use of information technology in the delivery of health care” [4]

Each one of us may already have our own ideas of connecting these 3 definitions. As this is my blog, then what I put down here is how I personally see the relevance of these 3 concepts.

We can see from the concept map that both public health and international health make up the definition of global health. Public health can be defined as the health of the general population as a whole and as regulated by the government. International health, on the other hand, is similar to public health, but deals with a larger area of coverage, usually by size of countries or state. Global health covers a bigger area than public health and international health combined. The general population included here is bigger than the community or state, and involves combinations of small community and states on a global level.

The term informatics was first used and developed by a Russian engineer / scientist during the 1960s. [5] The era of computers further improved the use and concept of informatics to facilitate the practice of information processing. The boom of the internet in the 1990s further improved the concept and use of informatics with the faster connectivity around the globe with the help of internet connectivity. The concept of informatics is relatively new compared to the concepts of global health, public health and international health. The latter are already established even before the idea and concept of informatics was born.

The term eHealth encompasses a set of disparate concepts, including health, technology, and commerce. [6]  “In the paper by Oh, et. al., it was discussed how the definition of eHealth is ever changing and the conclusion did not clamp down on any single definition.”[7] ibid For now, the concept of eHealth will always be changing until groups of people and experts agree and approve a single and unifying definition for eHealth.

The way I see it, informatics brought about the concept and idea of eHealth by merging itself with global health. Without the arrival of informatics, we would be fixed with the concept of global health and the concept of eHealth might not even be born. Informatics acted as the catalyst to provide the concept of eHealth as derived from global health.

We are not anchored to the current concept of eHealth, as it is,  as pointed out earlier, ever changing, evolving and improving. From the concept map, eHealth plus new technology will provide us the future of eHealth. I say future because everyday, an improvement or development can change , modify and update the current status of eHealth the same way that the concept of global health was modified by informatics to give us eHealth. Artificial intelligence that can help doctors diagnose patients is a once future technology that is already here. I recently saw this from a tweet — IBM Watson pinpoints rare form of leukemia after doctors misdiagnosed patient”  [8]  The use of artificial intelligence may not yet be accepted globally at present, but it may possibly be the accepted medical standard of care a few years from now. Not too long ago some people thought that the computers will have no use in a household. Similarly, people didn’t think that the use of mobile phones will make the use of payphones obsolete. Now these forms of technology are universal. The human race still has a long way to go in terms of technology and medicine, but health informatics will be a core part of the integrated development of these fields.

#MSHI #HI201

Allons-y!

 

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References:

[1] http://searchhealthit.techtarget.com/definition/health-informatics

[2] www.ed.ac.uk/files/atoms/files/what20is20informatics.pdf

[3] Koplan J, et al. Towards a common definition of global health. Lancet 2009;373:1993-1995.

[4] Oh H et al. What is eHealth(3): A systematic review of published definitions. J Med Internet Res 2005 Jan-Mar;7(1):e1 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1550636/

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Informatics#History

[6] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1550636/

[7] Ibid

[8] http://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/ibm-watson-pinpoints-rare-form-leukemia-after-doctors-misdiagnosed-patient

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