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This physician decided

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Soft spot for technology?

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Technology can open up new career paths for physicians or supplement your career in ways you might not have expected. Jennifer Thomas, M.D., after all, wasn’t planning to become a social media expert.

Mehul Sheth, D.O., who now wears two different hats, took another path. He recently moved to Chicago and became a medical consultant for Allscripts. He also provides input to EarWell, a manufacturer of devices for correcting ear deformities. Among other things, they’re considering before/after videos that can be placed on YouTube, or maybe a practitioner’s website.

Nareesa Mohammed-Rajput, M.D., may be one of the most typical changeovers: doctors who transition into medical informatics. She was originally trained in primary care.

“They had an EMR at the hospital I was at, but it wasn’t complete. So I started creating my own template,” she says. Her program director noticed, and offered a job after residency in which she helped with anything relating to EMRs—including rollouts, documentations, and sharing data with the outpatient group.

This eventually led her to Hopkins. In 2011, she completed National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) medical informatics program.

Edward H. Shortliffe, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), encourages doctors to explore such training, using NLM, AMIA, and other institutions’ programs.

As of September 2011, the American Board of Medical Specialties recognizes medical informatics as a subspecialty, and Shortliffe expects the first board exam, to be offered through the American Board of Preventive Medicine, to be available as early as Fall 2012.

AMIA’s national conference in October 2011 showed attendees a wide range of possibilities for careers, including consumer health informatics. Exhibitors ranged from institutions like the U.S. Army and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill—happy to train you in informatics—to major corporations like 3M seeking to recruit you post-training.

The latter are hoping to capture the kind of innovation shown by practitioners like Peter Stetson, M.D., chief medical informatics officer at ColumbiaDoctors, Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Stetson designed a patient hand-off to improve communication at the change of shifts. “It’s a hot topic in patient safety, and there are JCAHO requirements for institutions to have a hand-off project,” he says.

In the past decade, an increasing number of physicians are assuming the mantle of Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO).

In a September 2011 article, Healthcare Informatics noted that although 56 percent of these officers are age 50 and older (indicating many didn’t begin until mid-life), 44 percent are between ages 30 and 49.

Stetson still keeps his internal medicine hat and says, “It’s hard to be on call” while acting as CMIO. But he tells the students he’s training in this career option: “There’s no replacement for working with patients while using the systems that you deploy, to see how they work.”

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Wendy J. Mayeroff

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