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Clinical informatics gains subspecialty recognition

Dec. 12, 2013, 9:39 AM

Christoph Lehmann, M.D., and a handful of fellow experts in clinical informatics have secured official recognition for their subspecialty from the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Christoph Lehmann, M.D.

With the endorsement of the American Medical Informatics Association, Lehmann and colleagues undertook a series of national meetings that produced a detailed description of clinical informatics as a subspecialty, a full set of training requirements and a written exam.

Their five-year effort came to fruition earlier this year when clinical informatics joined medical toxicology and undersea-and-hyperbaric medicine as one of three subspecialty certificates conferred by the American Board of Preventive Medicine, and one of 11 subspecialty certificates conferred by the American Board of Pathology.

The clinical informatics subspecialty is unique in that all medical specialists are invited to seek certification.

“Across all specialties there is a tremendous need for people to help build and evaluate new clinical informatics tools. There was never any doubt that clinical informatics would be recognized as a subspecialty, because it has already established itself as a discipline critical to patient care. Hospitals and doctors are seizing upon information technology to help prevent errors and complications and enforce evidence-based practice guidelines,” said Lehmann, professor of Pediatrics and Biomedical Informatics and director of clinical informatics education with the Department of Biomedical Informatics.

According to Lehmann, in October more than 500 doctors took the exam. (As a co-author of the exam, to earn board certification himself, Lehmann had to take a special oral exam.)

For now, physicians can become eligible to take the exam by showing evidence of practical experience, but after five years this route will close, and candidates will instead have to complete an accredited clinical informatics fellowship.

According to Cynthia Gadd, Ph.D., vice chair for educational affairs in the Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt will apply for accreditation for its two-year clinical informatics fellowship pending publication of the fellowship criteria by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

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