Friday, September 23, 2011

Update: Clinical Informatics Subspecialty Approved

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.


  1. Thanks for the update Bill. You did a great job of highlighting the uncertainties about certification. It will be interesting to see what is criteria for "grandfathering".

  2. Thank you for all this information around the clinical informatics subspecialty. I understand the certification criteria and knowledge base is still growing but I've recently began a career in health IT with a background in Family Medicine and I am looking for additional reading around clinical informatics. What are some good resources (books, sites, etc) for physicians around more formal education of clinical informatics that you would recommend?

  3. Primarycare,

    It is hard to give a small list of resources to learn more about informatics. Certainly the web sites of some of the major professional organizations are key, such as:
    1. American Medical Informatics Assciation (AMIA, http://www.amia/org/)
    Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS,

    Also, since you are a physician, don't forget some of the medical societies and their efforts:
    AAFP Center for Health IT -
    ACP EHR Partners -

    You might also want to look into some of my Web sites and writings:

    What is Biomedical and Health Informatics? -
    My own Web site -
    Both of these sites point to papers I have written, such as my "definitions" paper in BMC Medical Informatics & Decision Making -

    And of course, launching a career by reading alone is probably not an ideal outcome. You might want to look into various pathways for formal training in the field, which will not only expose you to knowledge in a more structured way, but also give you access to practicum/internship experiences as well as connect you into a network of like-minded colleagues and faculty. In our program at OHSU, we have found that our faculty and students form a virtual community that acts very similar to "bricks and mortar" communities. For more information, you can start at: