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Today, clinical informatics is a tool physicians use every day, just like a stethoscope.

Informatics presents information to clinicians before they even realize it. It’s all about how we collect and use clinical and other data to help patients and improve their health. We use informatics in how we schedule patients, decide what testing they require, and track medicines. And informatics goes into every quality-improvement project undertaken in medicine. Increasingly, informatics will help doctors select the best care for their patients. It will even include artificial intelligence. Informatics gives us the ability to sift through millions of pieces of data to find trends and patterns—patterns people simply can’t see, but machines can.
Nurses can get involved with population health and quality-improvement projects—it’s a key skill for leadership. Employers in medicine, pharma, and medical devices—even Google and Apple—need people who can analyze and present data. Technical people can also benefit, because informatics, of course, relies on technology to do what it does.
Informatics is exciting in that it allows us to go from treating one patient at a time to treating entire populations. It expands the reach of medicine, increases its positive impact, and uses cutting-edge technology. What we do today in informatics sets the stage for the next generation of doctors and scientists.
Using informatics helped me to see the opioid epidemic coming 20 years ago. It was in the data. The rising tide of addiction and subsequent overdose deaths was in the data—long before anyone was even talking about it. That experience taught me that data has the power to prevent deaths. To me it was eye-opening. I learned that data flipped the discussion on opioids from talking about deaths retrospectively to actually having the power to stop them before they occurred—and that power can be deployed anywhere, from law enforcement to social services. Think of the Fresh Food Farmacy. It’s a great idea, but we don’t have the resources to put it everywhere. Geisinger used informatics and sifted through data on health status, economics, and social determinants—data beyond the EHR—to decide where to place them. At Geisinger, we’ve learned to harness data to improve health. Come here to learn—you’ll see how it’s done.

Bruce Levy, MD, CPE
Bruce Levy, MD, CPE
Associate Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Geisinger
Geisinger Professor of Pathology and Informatics
Vice Chair for Graduate Medical Education
Program Director, Clinical Informatics Fellowship