The Australian College Of Health Informatics: An Introduction

Health Informatics as a discipline is not new. It has a history that dates from the mid to late 1960s. The early origins were most likely in France, with individuals such as Francois Gremy.

Since then the essential role of health information in the delivery of health care has become increasingly apparent and important.

The 1991 publication by the Institute Of Medicine, summarised health informatics up to that time. This text was titled, “The Computer-Based Patient Care Record. An essential technology for health care.” (Institute of Medicine, Committee on Improving the Medical Record. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1991.)

This report spawned a series of texts on the many aspects of the use of computer-based technologies (electronic) that are components of what is now defined in terms such as the Electronic Medical Record, Electronic Health Record, Patient Health Record, etc.

The discipline of health informatics (sometimes referred to as medical informatics overseas) has evolved over time so that we now have three core aspects that define the importance of information management in health care:

  1. Providing medical care can be defined as information management and therefore medical practice can also been defined as medical decision making. Information is thus key to all care delivery. (Biomedical Informatics, Shortliffe and Cimino 2006).
  2. The communication of health information is based on the availability of an adequate medical record and the foundation for quality patient care is information. This information must be comprehensive, accurate and up-to-the-minute.
  3. To improve care you must be able to measure it and this is not possible using predominantly paper-based record systems. (W. Tierney, Regenstrief Insitute) Also, you manage what you measure. (Brent James IHC, QMMP project. Chicago, Illinois. 1989).

ACHI is a child of this emerging, but already robust scientific discipline, and was inaugurated in 2002 with its original Fellows and Members being drawn from those who had established ‘histories’ in this field. Its creation also reflected the need for a stronger academic scientific arm for health informatics within Australia, with a view to building on the strong record of the Health Informatics Society of Australia (HISA).

ACHI can therefore be seen as a distinct but integrated organisation within health informatics structures in Australia.

Ongoing professional cooperation between these two organisations and other informatics groups must occur for future successful health informatics projects to occur. With these professional interactions the knowledge and experiences of health informatics can be linked to health care management based on the Electronic Health Record and can be disseminated to industry, governments, health care institutions, medical colleges, clinicians, researchers, patients and health care funding organisations. This will facilitate the development and uptake of the Shared Electronic Health Record and all the required interoperability standards.

The College continues to grow in membership and now has 44 Fellows and Members thus expanding its research and knowledge resources. Its members are recognised internationally for their quality research and knowledge in this discipline.

The primary missions forACHI are to:

  • Act as the peak reference body for health informatics in Australia;
  • Foster professionalism in the health informatics community through a commitment to quality, standards and ethical practice;
  • Build a community of practice in health informatics, embracing the multidisciplinary nature of the field;
  • Work to enhance the national capacity in health informatics in research, education and training, policy and system implementation;
  • Support individual health informaticians through mentorship and the development of career paths;
  • Represent the health informatics community through advocacy and constructive interaction and linkage with government, industry, academia and other professional organisations; and
  • Work as agents of change in the health system by encouraging the appropriate and innovative use of health informatics concepts or technologies.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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