Overview of Orthopaedic Informatics

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Informatics is the study of the use of information. Since most medical subjects, such as orthopaedics, are experiencing an overload of information, it is unfortunate that informatics is a neglected area. Most of our research effort is put into accumulating more information; in contrast, this article rather focuses on the need to use the information we have already produced in a more fruitful, objective and scientific way.

A university or orthopaedic training programme "is not merely a place where known facts and theories should be administered to young men and women. The duty of professors, assistant professors, teachers and advanced students is to increaseknowledge"  (Emphasis mine). Research is an obligation and in most programmes a thesis is required of orthopaedic trainees. Much of this work involves adaptation of foreign innovations to the local environment rather than world leading original research. The duty to undertake research is difficult in orthopaedics in developing health systems. It is extremely expensive to develop new hardware or run randomized controlled trials. Even in developed areas this cost is so large that much of the research and teaching effort is financed commercially, with predictable consequences to objectivity.

However, the raw material of informatics is information. This information is freely available in the form of journal articles, web pages, patient support sites, blogs, databases, wikis and the like. The requirements for studying this information, computers and a connection to the Internet, are available virtually everywhere. It is possible to lead the world in the study of orthopaedic information with the expenditure of time, effort, scholarship and drive but without the need for extensive financial support.

A review of the material cited, in this section, on the subjects of research into evidence based orthopaedics, electronic skills, education, mailing lists and databases will yield many examples of low cost research with important findings. One important purpose of this review is to suggest that Orthopaedic Informatics be carefully examined by the academic community as a low cost opportunity to engage in world leading research.

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