The era of information technology has entered the main streams of health and medicine to form a new discipline known as biomedical informatics. The multidisciplinary field is a combination of bioinformatics, medical informatics and neuroinformatics. The science aims to serve the society with the integration of technology into the field of medicine and health ultimately achieving personal health care. What not? Years down the lane, you may be taking a pill specially designed for you.
The field has several applications right from the creation and maintenance of databases of patients in hospitals to newer approaches to drug discovery. The major roles played by the science are described below.
1. Database management
It is essentially a subset of the database applications using the computer languages such as ORACLE and SQL. The major difference lies in the nature of data to be stored. The volume is tremendous and the data is unique. With the increasing number of clinical trials, it has become necessary to maintain and archive the data for approval purposes. There is a need for fast communication and medical informaticians help in the process by creating virtual environment which suits the needs of the clinician.
2. Data mining techniques
The storage of data is not enough. It is also equally important to retrieve the data and integrate it with the physician's knowledge and experience at the right time. New data mining techniques are developed to assist the physician in this process. It includes creation of specific algorithms and programs to retrieve the data.
3. Modeling and visualization
This has largely been part of the bioinformatics. Newer drug designing approaches using in silico designs are widely replacing the traditional mouse models. The techniques save cost, time and lives of mice. You can also get the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic parameters using the software developed for the purpose.
The drug modeling and visualization techniques have enabled the researcher to design specific target molecules with the highest efficacy. Since the receptor binding parameters are considered and analyzed at the design level itself, there are less chances of failure of the drug. Systems mimicking the human response are also developed to find the safety and efficacy parameters.
4. Telemedicine systems
The system helps patients to get superior quality of professional support without the hurdles of time, distance and money. Imagine a patient getting medical opinions on treatment from the experts across the globe. The system is being used in a majority of hospitals and newer techniques need to be developed for further enhancements.
5. Medical decision support systems
Decision Support Systems, shortly called as DSS have been in use in other fields. The entry of such systems into the medicine is really revolutionary. The physicians get accurate, up-to-date information about the drugs and treatment options. It is a special and unique tool for the clinicians to make better judgments.
6. Imaging informatics
A variety of imaging techniques employ the use of medical informatics. A few to be listed include functional MRI, Positron Emission Tomography etc. These techniques allow for simultaneous monitoring of numerous metabolites and biological signals.
7. Functional genomics
The branch of 'omics' is familiar to all. A major subset of the group includes the pharmacogenetics which essentially designs the drug to suit you. The future of pharmaco genetics aims at targeted pharmacotherapy, be it the drugs or methods. The current clinical trials usually include a genetic study to create the database from which such precise therapeutics can be developed.
Biomedical informatics operates at four levels. Bioinformatics deals with the processes at the molecular and cellular level. Imaging informatics takes them to the level of tissues and organs and analyzes how they will interact and respond. Clinical informatics analyzes the data at the individual level. This includes the data base creation and management of data as in the case of clinical trials. Public Health informatics studies the pattern of prevalence and penetration of such genetic traits or specific conditions in the population as a whole.
Biomedical informatics tend to integrate all the above to give a holistic approach in developing individualized medicine. Other prominent applications include biomedical signal processing, medical e-learning, RFID systems in medicine, medical information security, Electronic Health Record maintenance, social informatics, organizational informatics and Machine Learning. There are other fields of applications specialized in one or more areas like dental informatics, nursing informatics etc thus offering a great choice for this career stream.
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