UAMS Professors among First to Achieve New Clinical Informatics Certification

Donnal Walter, M.D., Ph.D., left, and Joseph Jensen, M.D., recently earned board certification in clinical informatics, becoming two of only four physicians in Arkansas with those credentials. 

Dec. 18, 2013 | Two University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) professors are among only four physicians in Arkansas recently to earn board certification in clinical informatics, a medical specialty focused on safer and more efficient patient care.

Joseph Jensen, M.D., an associate professor in the UAMS Department of Surgery and associate chief medical officer for safety and quality at the UAMS Medical Center, and Donnal Walter, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the UAMS Department of Pediatrics and chief medical information officer at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, were tested in October for the new board certification and joined the inaugural class of board-certified clinical informaticians.

Clinical informatics improves the delivery of health care by leveraging components of clinical care, health systems-based practice and information and communications technology. Clinical informaticians also are trained to ensure that the privacy and security of health care information is safeguarded, particularly as the use of health information technology expands.

Before electronic health records, comparative analysis of a patient’s medical case with similar cases hardly was an option, Jensen said. But now a physician using clinical informatics and information technology can comparatively analyze clinical information as well as work to eliminate medication errors, redundant testing and other inefficiencies.

“It means improving how people in medicine communicate,” Jensen said. “Clinical informatics touches everything in health care. For many years in health care, we have understood the importance of keeping a good record and describing and communicating about patient care. Clinical informatics provides us tools to do this much more efficiently, over remote distances and with data standardized so that we can learn from the experiences of large groups of patients.”

In September 2011, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) approved the creation of a new board certification program in clinical informatics, offering it through the American Board of Preventive Medicine and the American Board of Pathology. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) in cooperation with the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) is developing pathways to create accredited clinical informatics fellowships.

According to the ABMS, the goals of the clinical informatics subspecialty include establishing a standardized educational and certification process for physicians in the field and enabling physicians to transform the health care into a system that taps the power of computer-based systems to support all facets of health care delivery.

Both Jensen and Walter have many years of experience as clinicians and working with health care information systems. Only qualified applicants with such experience were allowed to take the examination for board certification in clinical informatics.

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