It is claimed that seeds of ‘medical informatics’ were sown in 1960s.From this time until the 1990s experts have described the discipline as emerging. This perennial state of advancement can be dedicated to the pioneers of medical informatics who constantly realign its frontiers as the need changes for the rapid developments in the techniques pertaining to organization, processing, management and use of information. During this evolution, researchers and practitioners have made notable attempts to define medical informatics. As a result, today we have a noteworthy collection of peer-reviewed definitions of medical informatics. These definitions not only enlighten us with different perspectives and applications of medical informatics but they also provide a measure of the proliferation of this domain’s content. Many of these definitions of medical informatics are unique and explanatory in their respective inferences and contexts. Hence, collectively they can form a larger picture of medical informatics. Lack of clarity about a domain can prove to be counterproductive for new entrants and may also deflect their energies into relatively unrewarding directions. In order to throw light on various perspectives of ‘medical informatics’ and to understand the evolving meaning of the domain, we carried out a systematic review of formal definitions of medical informatics. An analysis was also performed by mapping 36 peer-reviewed definitions with MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) descriptors relevant to medical informatics. We believe that this research would serve as a handy and an informative resource and may also catalyze further research.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Computer: Is a machine for manipulating data according to a list of instructions.
Information Technology: Is “the study, design, development, implementation, support or management of computer-based information systems, particularly software applications and computer hardware.”
Information Science: Is an interdisciplinary science primarily concerned with the collection, classification, manipulation, storage, retrieval and dissemination of information. Information science studies the application and usage of knowledge in organizations, and the interaction between people, organizations and information systems. It is often (mistakenly) considered a branch of computer science. It is actually a broad, interdisciplinary field, incorporating not only aspects of computer science, but also library science, cognitive, and social sciences.
Knowledge: Is (i) facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, (ii) what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information or (iii) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. Philosophical debates in general start with Plato’s formulation of knowledge as “justified true belief” .
Information Systems: Is the discipline concerned with the development, use, application and influence of information technologies. An information system, following a definition of Langefors, is a technologically implemented medium for recording, storing, and disseminating linguistic expressions, as well as for drawing conclusions from such expressions.
Health Care (Healthcare): Is the prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical, nursing, and allied health professions.
Methodology: Is (i) the analysis of the principles of methods, rules, and postulates employed by a discipline” or (ii) the development of methods, to be applied within a discipline or (iii)a particular procedure or set of procedures.
Science: Refers to any systematic methodology which attempts to collect accurate information about reality and to model this in a way which can be used to make reliable, concrete and quantitative predictions about future events and observations. In a more restricted sense, science refers to a system of acquiring knowledge based on the scientific method, as well as to the organized body of knowledge gained through such research.
Decision Support Systems: Are a class of computer-based information systems including knowledge based systems that support decision making activities.
Information: Is the result of processing, manipulating and organizing data in a way that adds to the knowledge of the receiver. In other words, it is the context in which data is taken.