Several months ago, I described the proposal to establish a medical subspecialty in clinical informatics. I am pleased to report that this week, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) approved the subspecialty, as noted in a news release from AMIA.
Although administered by the American Board of Preventive Medicine, the subspecialty will be available to all physicians who have a primary board certification. The first offering of the examination will likely take place in the fall of 2012 for those who meet the criteria for "grandfathering" of the training requirements. In the long run, physicians wanting to subspecialize in clinical informatics will need to complete formal fellowship training.
The approval of this subspecialty is a recognition of the critical professional role played by clinical informaticians. As information is so critical to 21st century medicine, whether in the need for healthcare to be more accountable for its operations or in the coming complexity of clinical decision-making from the data "tsunami" due to advances in genomics and related areas, there will be increasing need for those who work at the interface of medicine and information systems.
There are a number of uncertainties in this development. For example, what will be the criteria for grandfathering of the training requirements. Also, what career pathway will there be for physicians who are not certified in a primary board or have let that certification lapse? Another concern is what will be the evolving role for graduate-level educational programs, such as our program at Oregon Health & Science University.
Although there are a number of details still forthcoming, this new development is an exciting one for the informatics field. I also hope that there will be other pathways for comparable certification not only for physicians who are not eligible for ABMS certification but also for informatics professionals of other backgrounds, both clinical and non-clinical.