By Jean Daniel Desrosiers, MD, MBA, MS
Even for specialists, making the right decisions in medicine is often difficult. How can we decide whether or not to order treatments or diagnostic procedures? Are they essential, or are there any other options? Evidence-based Practice (EBP) is a discipline that has grown and matured to help answer those answers. It aims at transforming clinical data into knowledge based on accuracy. Scientists analyze controlled studies, clinical cases report, and expert opinions to support medical decisions. The application of EBP depends on facts, not expert opinions or traditions. The success of Evidence-Based Practice relies heavily on the availability of a wide range of databases. It is a way to link scientific processes with health informatics. In short, Evidence-Based Practice is the application of medicine based on scientific evidence supported by a wealth of clinical data available electronically.
Health informatics is the application of software and other digital technologies in medicine. The introduction of informatics in medicine has been a turning point in healthcare. Evidence-Based medicine requires the availability and analysis of a large amount of data arranged in a way that can generate specific knowledge. In the meantime, information and communication technology (ICT) has proliferated at a rapid pace. ICT is present in everyday lives. The internet represents a massive network connecting millions of computers. Users can access web-based apps, mobile phones, and alert systems from everywhere across the globe. Cloud-based technology has tremendously increased the capacity to store medical data. Medical informatics is the science of information, where information means data with a specific meaning. It represents a virtual bridge across providers and other stakeholders that supports collaboration and enhances decision-making. Evidence-based medicine requires information that is processed and stored through informatics infrastructures.
Health informatics technologies open opportunities for scientists to access the wealth of medical information documented and stored electronically throughout the world. In other words, technology brings evidence at the fingertip of users. Practitioners use medical informatics to show facts instead of speculating on therapeutic methods or relying on traditional practices. A database stored in mostly open systems is rich in the scientific information that can assess medical decisions’ relevance. Informatics as a whole is a combination of methodologies that help manage data, information, and knowledge. Health informatics connects multiple stakeholders, including epidemiologists, clinicians, biologists, policymakers, and health service researchers.
Evidence-based Practice (EBP) is a discipline that is supported by scientific results and factual data. EBP doesn’t lean on personal opinions and experiences. It relies solely on the best facts available during treatments or diagnostic procedures. Medical Informatics support data exchange between heterogeneous systems and constitute as such a fundamental tool to support EBP. Both concepts, EBP and Medical informatics enhance communication among stakeholders to help make better medical decisions while cutting costs. Evidence-Based Practice uses different models to help answer a clinical question and find the highest level of evidence from electronic literature to guide medical decisions. EBP is centered around facts, while health informatics is applying facts to optimize the decision-making process. There is a natural fit between the two fields.
Jean Daniel Desrosiers is a cofounder of DOKPAM and member of the organization’s team of medical and health information systems editors.