Over the past twenty years, Vanderbilt University Medical Center has investigated the hypothesis that integration of the skills of the Department of Biomedical Informatics into service needs will result in unique benefit for its patients, the institution and the nation through its example. Through the umbrella of the Informatics Center, faculty and trainees in the Department of Biomedical Informatics are engaged in service activities across clinical informatics, pharmacogenomics, translational informatics, personalized medicine, and computational informatics. These activities focus on patient care and management, while supporting informatics-related research directly related to its service mission. A key aspect of the Departmental involvement is to bring to the table knowledge of what has worked, and not worked, in the national Informatics experience, to allow true innovation while avoiding the errors of the past.

Our faculty partner with our Chief Medical/Nursing Information Officers and faculty in the clinical specialties, biomedical and biological sciences, computer science, bioengineering, oncology and genetics to jointly create novel solutions to problems identified via operational channels. These real-world problems are addressed via a systematic examination of alternatives solutions, choosing solutions that are blends of existing infrastructure, commercial offerings and new in-house integration. These activities have expanded beyond the bounds of Vanderbilt to include a regional and national role. Students participate to the extent their experience would be educationally beneficial and aligned with their interests.

The tight coupling of the Department with the service activities of the Informatics Center has resulted in funding opportunities and financial opportunities that would not have been possible without this marriage. Examples over the last few years include the national and state funding of a regional Health Information Network, a CMS innovations grant and CTSA with an aggregate value of approximately 70 million dollars to support the institutional service mission.

Based on our experience, we now believe that the hypothesis of a synergy that provides more than the sum of the parts has been validated.