Wednesday, February 09, 2005

CRO's: we don't need Medical Informatics here

After being laid off from a major pharma as part of a large reduction in force, in recent months I've spoken to major CRO's (Clinical Research Organizations) about opportunities in Medical Informatics. CRO's are companies that conduct clinical trials for pharmas under contract as well as perform other drug development-related activities.

Here are some of the responses I've received:

A senior executive for Biometrics and Data Management at a large CRO with operations in my vicinity: "There's nothing in your resume of value to a clinical research organization." This was repeated even after I verbally reviewed my background with said individual. (A truly stunning and unforgettable rebuff, the likes of which I'd never heard before.)

Unknown hiring manager at another large CRO (via a recruiter): "Just wanted to follow up with you about the [management] position. They sent us an e-mail today communicating that you are a great candidate but just a little too heavy on the Informatics side for this position."

So, ironically, one CRO finds nothing of value in the background of a seasoned Medical Informaticist, and another finds "too much" Informatics for a management opportunity. How, one might ask, can someone be "too heavy" on the informatics side in an organization whose lifeblood is clinical data management?

Here is the NIH on the value of Medical Informatics, on which they and other organizations spend tens of millions of dollars annually on training programs and research:
Clinical care, biomedical research and education, and public health administration can be improved by the inclusion of informaticists (in-context information specialists) into work and decision settings. Informaticists are information specialists who have received formal graduate training and practical experience that provides a cross-disciplinary background in both medical science and information science. Their cross training provides a unique perspective on the acquisition, synthesis and application of information to problem solving and program development in clinical and biomedical areas.
Do I sense a disconnect here? This experience reflects only two CRO examples, but if this reflects the same kind of trend I've observed in the provider sector, it makes me less incredulous that the pharmaceutical industry is facing significant challenges regarding clinical trials results and post-marketing surveillance, to the point of class-action personal injury lawsuits and Congressional investigation. It may reflect a significant underutilization of talent.

The reasons for an apparent blindness to Medical Informatics by providers, pharma and possibly CRO's may reflect lack of knowledge of the field, occupational jealousy or territorial issues by personnel who are unidisciplinary, or basic reactionary thinking.

In any case, the repeated observations of healthcare's data management difficulties reflect a significant gap in healthcare leadership's thinking on these issues, in my opinion.

-- SS