Training & Applications

In a health department, e.g. on a hospital ward, the issues dealing with modern information and communication technology are pretty often delegated to people who are ‘good with computers’.

While many everyday problems may be solved on such an ‘aficionado basis’ problems are likely to arise when it comes to larger projects with advanced requirements, i.e. safety of patient data. On the other hand, pure engineers or informaticians often lack specific knowledge to fully understand the workflow and needs of the medical personnel and institutions. This underlines the need for IT-Specialists with knowledge and expertise to facilitate progress in the health sector.

This was already in the 1960s recognized to be a major issue for the progress and efficiency of the ever growing health sector – both medical and financial. The need to train specialists in Medical Informatics (MI) led to the establishment of the first academic curricula in the US (Utah) and Germany (Heidelberg/Heilbronn).

The University of Heidelberg, being one of the first to offer such a curriculum, started with a diploma as the final degree and recently changed to the bachelor-master system for an alignment with international standards. Due to its vast experience in the training of MI students and the well established connections with South America by the Heidelberg Center for Latin America (HCLA), the University of Heidelberg was selected by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to promote education on that field in Chile.

Residing at the intersections of Medicine and Informatics, Medical Informatics covers a broad scope of Information and Communication Technology tailored to serve the health sector. Projects with the need of MI knowledge thus cover such diverse topics as

  • ‘going digital’ of a medical institution: data acquisition, patient records, medical images
  • connecting healthcare institutions: establishing and sharing medical databases, telemedicine
  • enhancement of diagnostic and therapeutic infrastructure: how to best acquire, process and correlate medical data such as tissue, genetic and imaging samples
  • management decision support: purchase of medical appliances or information systems, understanding the needs of physicians, nurses and technical personnel

Medical Informatics may thus provide strategies and technologies to enhance both the needs of patient care and medical research.