Medical subspecialty status granted to clinical informatics

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has recognized clinical informatics as a medical subspecialty, an ABMS spokesperson told FierceHealthIT. The long-awaited elevation of clinical informatics to an official branch of medicine signals the coming of age of the field, which has become increasingly important as hospitals and physicians adopt electronic health records.

The American Board of Preventive Medicine and the American Board of Pathology requested that ABMS make clinical informatics a subspecialty, and the ABPM will administer the new board certification exam. But physicians who hold board certifications in any medical specialty can apply to be certified in clinical informatics, as well. The first clinical informatics board exams will be held in fall 2012, and the initial certificates will be issued in early 2013, according to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA).

AMIA, which has been pushing for ABMS recognition of clinical informatics since 2005, was very pleased with the outcome.

"Establishment of the clinical informatics medical subspecialty is consistent with the current emphasis on broadening and professionalizing the health information technology workforce," AMIA President and CEO Edward H. Shortliffe, MD, PhD., said in a press release. "With the need over the next decade for 50,000 informatics professionals in the health sector with various levels of expertise, this focus on physician expertise in clinical informatics is clearly a step in the right direction. The CI exam will encourage more medical schools to build informatics into their training programs and to begin addressing real-world information management needs of physicians in virtually every work environment."

With board certification looming for clinical informatics, the sponsoring organizations will ask the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which accredits residency programs, to approve fellowship programs in clinical informatics. AMIA has proposed a two-year fellowship that could be completed within four years.

But for the first five years of the new board certification, physicians who have not had fellowship training will be able to sit for the exam if they have real-world experience in clinical informatics.

To learn more:
- read the AMIA press release
- see the InformationWeek Healthcare article
- check out the Healthcare IT News story