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Biomedical and health professionals converge in D.C. to absorb new findings in science of informatics

Washington, DC, Nov. 15The 34th Annual Symposium on Biomedical and Health Informatics opened this week with keynote speaker Susan Dentzer, editor in chief of Health Affairs, addressing a crowd of more than two thousand professionals who are central to modernizing the nation's health sector by applying the science of informatics to a variety of specialized health domains, including public health, clinical practice, clinical research, and translational bioinformatics. The informatics work force develops and encourages use of critical decision-support tools for healthcare providers, adopts and promotes use of electronic health records as a tool for collaborative treatment of patients, and creates resources and tools used in biomedical research. The Symposium's theme, Informatics: Key to Quality Care and Scientific Progress, links together 102 scientific sessions, two keynote speakers, 364 scientific posters, 71 exhibits, a number of theatre-style demonstrations, and six late-breaking sessions. Sessions are led by informatics experts in a professional community that spans academia, industry, clinical settings, research environments, and government and nonprofit agencies.

The Department of Health and Human Services' National Coordinator on Health Information Technology, David Blumenthal, MD, addressed the Symposium at a plenary session this morning. He told the audience, "AMIA plays a leading role in the nation's transition to the quality benefits and efficiencies of health information technology, and this year's Symposium promises to continue supporting our movement forward." Dr. Blumenthal's office is responsible for the implementation of a nationwide interoperable, privacy-protected health information technology infrastructure.

In opening the Symposium, Scientific Program Committee Chair Gilad Kuperman, MD, PhD, FACMI, of New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University, described the challenges informatics professionals face working in today's health sector. "Introducing complex technology into a complex health care system requires a deliberate and thoughtful approach," he said. "Simultaneously, important advances in biomedical computational techniques are helping us understand the best ways to extract meaning from health data, discover new knowledge, support clinical research, and understand how best to use information technology to improve the health of individuals and populations."

A number of Symposium sessions are devoted to examination of how ARRA and the HITECH Act are energizing the field of informatics in key areas: workforce expansion and research. One late-breaking session, for example, takes a close look at the current adequacy of quality measures in the electronic era, and how electronic health records (EHRs) support quality measurement and standardization of quality measurements. Another session, also linked to the ARRA stimulus, includes a panel of ONC grant recipients sharing their initial challenges and lessons learned as they move forward in HIT adoption. The panel members are able to contrast the different operating models, and outreach and technical assistance strategies employed by each of the various Regional Extension Centers established by HITECH grant funds.

A late-breaking session scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 17, focuses on HIT vendor contracts, their customers, ethical practices, and patient safety. This session provides analysis of AMIA's recently published position on HIT vendors, their customers, and patient safety, including contract language and other elements of the vendor-customer relationship that can be improved upon for more meaningful use of HIT systems in clinical practice settings.

In his remarks to the Symposium, AMIA President and CEO Edward H. Shortliffe, MD, PhD, FACMI, indicated significant growth plans for AMIA and revealed a new logo and tagline. He said that the refreshed branding is meant to convey AMIA's readiness to broaden its scope of activity, opening the association to greater numbers of professionals and students, and overall, wielding greater influence in the future of health care delivery, and the education of healthcare providers, public health workers and officials, computer scientists, policymakers, and others involved in the build-out of a national health system that is both interoperable and standardized.

"In less than 10 years," said Dr. Shortliffe, "most Americans will know the term 'informatics' and will understand that it is the science that underpins their physicians' capacity to make a speedy, precise diagnosis, to prescribe medication remotely, and to read test results, distribute information to other consulting physician groups, and download results and notes to patients. People will begin to expect health data at their fingertips, in much the same way they interact as agents in their personal banking, personal travel, and online investing." This fundamental aspect of transforming the health sector, according to Dr. Shortliffe, was the inspiration for AMIA's new tagline: Informatics Professionals. Leading the Way.


Contact: Nancy Light
American Medical Informatics Association

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