Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What is a physician technologist?

What is a physician technologist? You won't find this job description too often. There is no formal medical specialty that gives anyone the title or designation of "physician technologist." So, in some ways the phrase "physician technologist" can imply that you're a physician executive who specializes in the application of technology and/or informatics. However, if we're talking about informatics, there are specific job titles that already exist. Some of them include:
  • Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO)
  • Medical Director of Information Systems
  • Medical Director of Clinical Informatics
There are professional societies like the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) and the Association of Medical Directors of Information Systems (AMDIS) that support the field of clinical or medical informatics. Soon, we'll see the emergence of a new medical specialty called "clinical informatics." In November 2008, the AMIA Board of Directors approved the Core Content and Training Program Requirements for clinical informatics. The American Board of Preventive Medicine will be the home medical specialty board for the clinical informatics subspecialty and we should soon see the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) formally recognizing the subspecialty of clinical informatics.

So, "clinical informatics" is clearly defined, but the term "technologist" is very broad and it can mean several different things. In some fields (such as radiology, surgery, nuclear medicine, etc.) a technologist may be a type of technician. Some may even use the terms technologist and technician interchangeably. If you search on the Internet, you'll find these types of definitions for the word "technologist":
  • The technologist is a key member of that team who is responsible for applying the research, analysis and designs of his colleagues the scientist and the engineer.
  • Technologists also supervise technicians who are involved in fabricating, operating, testing, troubleshooting and maintaining equipment and systems.
My favorite definition is this one from TheFreeDictionary.com and Dictionary.com:
  • Technologist: A specialist in technology.
That's simple, isn't it? If you have a passion for technology, you may choose to pursue a career in clinical informatics. But what if you want to specialize in a new area of technology such as social media or mobile technology? These are rapidly evolving areas and companies that are progressive and forward-thinking may create new job titles as the health care industry evolves to incorporate newer forms of technology in all aspects of medicine. Soon, we may see titles such as "Medical Director of Social Media Technology." What about "Medical Director of Mobile Technology?" These titles don't formally exist right now, but they could emerge in the near future.

As for me, I currently hold the official title of "Vice President of Medical Affairs and Technology" in my company and that makes me a physician executive and a technologist.

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