Unlike any other class I’ve had before, Health Informatics 201 requires me to regularly blog. Contents of the posts are guided with a driving question that is different each week and is aimed at understanding the many different concepts in health informatics. Several references are also recommended to help answer the driving question.
This week, the driving question is…
What is the relevance of informatics to global health and eHealth?
Prior to reading any of the recommended literature, my initial thought was that eHealth is the use of informatics to deliver health on a global scale. And then I started reading and realized that there were several other concepts I needed to know and understand first before I could adequately answer this week’s driving question.
We were tasked to make a concept map to illustrate our answer and below is what I came up with.
Before we integrate and link the different concepts together, let me define some of the words and phrases above.
Health, according to the WHO, is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” On the other hand, the Indiana State University – School of Informatics defines informatics as a “rapidly developing field that is aimed towards the study and application of information technology to the arts, science and professions, and to its use in organizations and society at large.” When informatics is applied to health, it can be termed eHealth. Although there are a variety of definitions for eHealth, one of its simplest definitions is from the WHO, which is the “use of information and communication technologies for health.”
The American Medical Informatics Association defines biomedical informatics (BMI) as the “interdisciplinary field that studies and pursues the effective uses of biomedical data, information, and knowledge for scientific inquiry, problem solving, and decision making, motivated by efforts to improve human health.” It is more focused on researching and developing theories, methods and processes, and provides the link between research and its application to the practice of healthcare. It is a broad field with different disciplines cover from the tiniest molecule to the population in general.
Finally, global health is an “area for study, research, and practice that places a priority on improving health and achieving equity in health for all people worldwide. It emphasises transnational health issues, determinants, and solutions; involves many disciplines within and beyond the health sciences and promotes interdisciplinary collaboration; and is a synthesis of population-based prevention with individual-level clinical care (Koplan, et. al, 2009).”
Going back to the driving question, what, then, is the relevance of informatics to eHealth and global health? Based on the definitions provided above, I would say that informatics is a prerequisite of eHealth. It is the field that enables the use of technology to further advance the art and science of health.
Which now leads me to why I connected eHealth to biomedical informatics. These two go hand in hand since I believe that eHealth is at the core of BMI. It is also the reason why I connected eHealth to every level under it, since applications of BMI, whether it is focused the smallest of molecules or the biggest of populations, is facilitated and improved through eHealth. eHealth makes the continuous growth and evolvement of the fields possible.
What about global health? How is informatics related to it? Before diving into that, I’d like to give a brief overview of the concepts along the arrow above. The biomedical sciences are more focused on how the cells, tissues and organs work in the human body. They are not readily “visible” to the naked eye (although imaging does help us visualize some of these). Next is individual or clinical health, where the approach is towards patient as a singular entity. Meanwhile, public health focuses on health of the population of a particular community or country, and its main focus is the development of prevention programs. In contrast, international health is more focused on the health issues of countries other than one’s own, and it is geared towards both prevention and individual clinical care. Although the fields are independent of one another, they all form a continuum that ultimately leads to global health, and the aggregate knowledge from the different fields help drive the art and science of global health. While there are many factors that come into play when it comes to the delivery of health on a global scale, examples of which are funding and policy-making, informatics and eHealth provide all involved stakeholders (from consumers to health professionals to researchers to businessmen to politicians) with access to data. Decisions, whether big or small, are then made based on scientific evidence. Since global health is dynamic, methods can be refined and newer data can be regularly gathered, which would help stakeholders understand the different patterns within and among countries and/or populations.
As both a physician and a patient (at times), I feel that there is much to look forward to in terms of eHealth and biomedical informatics. With the rapidity with which new advances in the different fields of technology and medicine are made, it makes me hopeful for the future. More than being scared, I am excited for the many changes that are surely bound to happen. I envision that years from now, we will be more empowered as individuals and as a society, equipped with more scientific knowledge to take charge of our own health (as a patient or as consumers) and to take part in the delivery of health on a larger scale (as a physician).
That is it for this week’s apple! I definitely learned a lot of concepts and a number of my misconceptions were addressed. I hope that you were able to learn a thing or two, too.
Since I will be answering a question each week, I’d like to leave you a question as well as food for thought. This week, I’d like to know…
How has information and communication technologies influenced YOUR overall health?
Comments, suggestions and discussions are very much welcome on my blog. Leave a comment down below and let’s discuss and learn together.
By the way, aside from this little garden that I have, you can also find me on other social media accounts. Check the bottom left of your screen and click on those links.
- Health (n.d.). In World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/about/definition/en/print.html
- Informatics (n.d.). In Indiana University – Purdue University Minneapolis. Retrieved from https://soic.iupui.edu/about/what-is-informatics/
- Oh, R.C., et. al. (2005). What is eHealth(3): A systematic review of published definitions. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 7(1):e1. doi:10.2196/jmir.7.1.e1
- American Medical Informatics Society (n.d.). What is “biomedical informatics” [Powerpoint slides]. Retrieved from https://www.amia.org/about-amia/science-informatics
- Koplan, J., et al. (2009). Towards a common definition of global health. Lancet, 373, 1993-1995. Retrieved from: http://download.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140673609603329.pdf?id=aaa2PD8P4K67OaZuMZyru
- Murray, C.L. J. & Lopez, A. D. (2013). Measuring the global burden of disease. New England Journal of Medicine, 369, 448-457. doi:10.1056/NEJMra1201534