UCLA’s Clinical Informatics Fellowship Program has been approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, providing the innovative subspecialty with key support as it earns broader recognition. In receiving accreditation, UCLA becomes one of only seven programs nationwide to earn approval from that important sanctioning body to date.
“We’re fortunate to be among the programs that will pioneer clinical informatics training, helping to establish the new subspecialty’s role in transforming health care,” said Dr. Douglas Bell, professor of medicine at UCLA and program director of the new fellowship.
Clinical informatics involves the application of both biomedical knowledge and information management to improve health care. Physicians who practice this growing scientific discipline strive to improve and transform health care by analyzing, designing, implementing and evaluating information and communication systems that enhance individual and population health outcomes, improve patient care, and strengthen the patient/clinician relationship.
“The UCLA fellowship program received accreditation just a year after planning and development began,” said Kevin Baldwin, specialist in IT engagement and quality improvement for UCLA Health and the program administrator.
Baldwin added that accreditation elevates UCLA to the vanguard of clinical informatics training. “This program puts us at the forefront of informatics nationally, and we’re excited to continue building our leadership in the field,” he said.
The field of clinical informatics came into sharp focus in 2011 when the American Board of Medical Specialties approved it as a new, board-eligible subspecialty. Beginning in 2018, board eligibility in clinical informatics will require completion of a fellowship program that is accredited by the ACGME. Currently, fewer than 800 physicians around the country are board-certified in clinical informatics.
With accreditation now complete, UCLA Health and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA have begun seeking candidates for two clinical informatics fellowship positions. Physicians from around the country are expected to apply, and fellows will be chosen in April. The two-year fellowship positions, both of them open to graduates of residency programs in any medical specialty, will begin in July of 2015.
“It is exciting and humbling for UCLA Health to be part of the initial group of programs around the country that will offer this innovative and impactful fellowship in clinical informatics,” said Dr. Michael Pfeffer, chief medical informatics officer and acting chief information officer for UCLA Health. “We have a diverse, board-certified clinical informatics faculty ready to train the country’s future leaders in informatics.”
The goal of UCLA’s fellowship program is to train physicians in the principles and practice of clinical informatics, preparing them to lead the way in implementing health information technology systems as well as in research that advances the discipline.
“Clinical informatics is the scientific discipline focused on how we can deliver knowledge and information precisely where it’s needed in health care,” said Bell. “By learning to conduct rigorous research as well as to manage health IT systems, our fellows will close the gap between informatics research and practice by conducting research that’s embedded in and that directly informs clinical informatics practice.”
As they investigate how health care IT systems impact the delivery of care, fellows will focus on real-world problems such as the fatigue that physicians and nurses face as more and more devices capable of tracking patient data bombard them with information.
Fellows will complete a training program that includes:
• Clinical rotations, which involve four-week assignments to working units of the UCLA Health Information Services and Solutions Department. The department was responsible for UCLA Health being named among the nation’s “most wired” by Hospitals and Health Networks magazine. • Didactics, including case studies and course work presented by expert faculty and covering a challenging core curriculum. • An individualized, mentored research project based upon personal career objectives and informatics challenges that fellows identify during clinical rotations. • Dedicated time to practice in the fellow’s specialty.
“As much as possible, we incorporated practical experience into this program in order to equip the fellows with the skills necessary to flourish in the physician workforce immediately after certification in this specialized field.” Baldwin said. “These early fellows are innovators. I see them going out and having a big impact nationally across the health system.”
At least some graduates are expected to fill the role of chief medical information officer within health care delivery organizations, serving as a bridge between the physician team and IT workforce to ensure that IT systems are implemented appropriately.
“Clinical informatics is critical to the success of technology in health care, whether it involves electronic health records, imaging informatics or shaping policy on how technology is used,” Pfeffer said. “As board-certified physicians in the specialty of their choosing, and as active clinicians using technologies in real time, they will be able to apply their knowledge from the fellowship to develop new and user-friendly ways for technology to help clinicians take better care of patients.”
Prospective applicants are urged to complete an online application at www.uclahealth.org/ClinicalInformaticsFellowship by April 1. Questions should be emailed to: CIFellowship@mednet.ucla.edu.