MEDICAL INFORMATICS PLANNING INTERVIEW
INTERVIEW(S): N. Paneth DATE: 14 August 2001
Need for collaboration/coordination/sharing across MSU units to avoid duplication, sharing
across MSU units to avoid duplication, sharing of resources and experiences
Focus for training doctors in informatics should be on "basics"; needs to be simple
Information systems/databases/information should be created based on what is useful
[Introduction and Overview of Process.]
The working definition of "medical informatics" used by the OMI focuses on its core
function of using a variety of computing and communications tools to help our students
and faculty effectively and efficiently manage information and knowledge. Using this
definition or one of your own, what activities currently are underway in Epidemiology that
would be considered “informatics-related”?
In CHM (especially OMERAD), they are working toward increased integration of curricular
content focusing on informatics and information management; will include more class time
on epidemiology and biostatistics. CHM’s medical informatics curriculum is still in the
planning phase. The epidemiology/ biostatistics part is drafted. Current content occurs in
CHM Block II Social Context for Medical Decisions that has modules in epi (biostats and
medical decision making), health services/economics, and ethics. In the 3rd year there is some
content in research design (taught by Family Practice and Epi.)
Epidemiology provides their own computer support. They have two FTEs who are on soft
“Informatics” has many definitions/aspects: e.g., “bioinformatics,” “biophysics,” “biological
modeling,” info. retrieval/processing, just using computers and other technologies, searching
digital databases (search engines), large research databases, genomic sequencing.
Informatics has been around a long time and there are still issues of what do we do with the
data. What questions need to be asked of them? “There aren’t a lot of answers; it’s kind of
like the problem of disposing of nuclear waste (there’s lots of data but what do you do with
it?).” “We’re swimming upstream.” There’s lots of reinventing the wheel (locally and
nationally)—e.g., physics dept. attempting to grow its own “NSF grant application experts”
and highly variable hospital data sets.
Epi has links/relationships with the Institute for Health Studies, MSU Center for Biological
Modeling (Leslie Kuhn and Joe Gardner) and the MSU Center for Genomic Technologies.
As you are aware, MSUCOM’s OMI is a unit with similar counterparts in the other health
professions schools, MSU Health Team, and the university. They all have technology
support functions as their primary responsibility. We’d like you to think about the role of
MSUCOM’s OMI in relation to these other units over the next three to five years. In what
ways do you view the redundancy inherent in these units as beneficial? In what ways is it
negative? As you think about the next three years, where are the areas of necessary
collaboration and coordination and where will colleges and units need to maintain
autonomy and distinctiveness?
Could have shared lectures between the colleges on basic medical informatics.
If COM could provide medical informatics curricular expertise, Dr. Paneth could provide the
epidemiology and biostatistics across the two medical schools. Drs. Riegle and Hoppe would
need to work together.
There needs to be more integration; don’t duplicate efforts. There’s a tradition of separate
units supporting their own informatics, but the spirit of collaboration is increasing at MSU.
OMI should operate by example; there’s a need for leadership and to share results and
resources and experiences. OMI should model the Department of Neurology and
Ophthalmology—were able to work across colleges for a common purpose.
COM could take the lead for medical informatics and it could be integrated between the
colleges (much like CHM is the lead for epidemiology and biostatistics).
Is there anything else we need to know or think about related to medical informatics as we
For physicians to be good users of medical information, you need to simplify what you are
training. Should focus on “bare bones.” Docs are hard to teach informatics too because
“they generally don’t like math” and they’re the “ultimate dilettantes”—they know a little
about a lot of things.
We are constantly creating databases without worrying about what is useful.
Research informatics will be focused in the Data Coordinating Center.