Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Master of Biomedical Informatics


Frequently Asked Questions

Is Biomedical Informatics the same as Bioinformatics?


According to the definition accepted by the American Medical Informatics Association, Biomedical Informatics (BMI) is “the interdisciplinary field that studies and pursues the effective uses of biomedical data, information, and knowledge for scientific inquiry, problem solving and decision making, motivated by efforts to improve human health.”

Bioinformatics, per Merriam-Webster, specifically deals with “the collection, classification, storage, and analysis of biochemical and biological information using computers especially as applied to molecular genetics and genomics [and other –omics domains]”

Students seeking training in bioinformatics should consider the Molecular Biology track in the Masters of Biotechnology program, the Informatics track in the Master of Science in Translational Research program, or the Genomics and Computational Biology Graduate Group.


How does Clinical Informatics fit into the discipline of Biomedical Informatics as a whole?

Clinical Informatics is one of the five domains within Biomedical Informatics, each of which has different, but related core skill sets. The five domains of biomedical informatics are:

Translational Bioinformatics is the development of storage, analytic, and interpretive methods to optimize the transformation of increasingly voluminous biomedical data, and genomic data, into proactive, predictive, preventive, and participatory health. Translational bioinformatics includes research on the development of novel techniques for the integration of biological and clinical data and the evolution of clinical informatics methodology to encompass biological observations. The end product of translational bioinformatics is newly found knowledge from these integrative efforts that can be disseminated to a variety of stakeholders, including biomedical scientists, clinicians, and patients. One examples of Translational Bioinformatics at Penn is the Penn Center for Precision Medicine. The Biomedical Informatics concentration in the Master of Science in Translational Research offers formal training in translational bioinformatics, and students in other Masters and PhD programs have done thesis research in this area.

Clinical Research Informatics involves the use of informatics in the discovery and management of new knowledge relating to health and disease. It includes management of information related to clinical trials and also involves informatics related to secondary research use of clinical data. Clinical research informatics and translational bioinformatics are the primary domains related to informatics activities to support translational research. Examples of Clinical Research Informatics at Penn include secondary use of the Penn Data Store to answer research questions, the PennAI project, and the Clinical Research Informatics Core within IBI as a service center to help faculty use CRI methods.

Clinical Informatics is the application of informatics and information technology to deliver healthcare services. It is also referred to as applied clinical informatics and operational informatics. Clinical Informatics is concerned with information use in health care by clinicians. Clinical informatics includes a wide range of topics ranging from clinical decision support to visual images (e.g. radiological, pathological, dermatological, ophthalmological, etc); from clinical documentation to provider order entry systems; and from system design to system implementation and adoption issues. Examples of Clinical Informatics at Penn include the Center for Evidence-Based Practice, the recent integration of MyChart with the EHR as mypennmedicine.org, as well as the ongoing implementation of guidelines and clinical decision support.

Consumer Health Informatics is the field devoted to informatics from multiple consumer or patient views. These include patient-focused informatics, health literacy and consumer education. The focus is on information structures and processes that empower consumers to manage their own health--for example health information literacy, consumer-friendly language, personal health records, and Internet-based strategies and resources. The shift in this view of informatics analyzes consumers' needs for information; studies and implements methods for making information accessible to consumers; and models and integrates consumers' preferences into health information systems. Consumer informatics stands at the crossroads of other disciplines, such as nursing informatics, public health, health promotion, health education, library science, and communication science. Examples of Consumer Health Informatics at Penn include the implementation of myPennMedicine and its app, the Center for Healthcare Innovation, and the MyHeartMap Challenge.

Public Health Informatics is the application of informatics in areas of public health, including surveillance, prevention, preparedness, and health promotion. Public health informatics and the related population informatics, work on information and technology issues from the perspective of groups of individuals. Public health is extremely broad and can even touch on the environment, work and living places and more. Generally, AMIA focuses on those aspects of public health that enable the development and use of interoperable information systems for public health functions such as biosurveillance, outbreak management, electronic laboratory reporting and prevention. Examples of Public Health Informatics at Penn include the World Well-Being Project and the Penn Social Media and Health Innovation Lab.



I am looking for informatics training to help me in my research. Is this the right program for me?

While some of the coursework in this program provides practical training relevant to informatics in biomedical research, the primary focus of this program is applied clinical informatics.

Students seeking training in bioinformatics should consider the Informatics track in the Master of Science in Translational Research program or the PhD program in Genomics and Computational Biology. Students with a primary interest in Data Science may want to apply to the MSE in Data Science offered by the school of Engineering and Applied Science.


Are there scholarship funds available for this program?

Not at present. Penn and CHOP faculty and staff will have access to tuition benefits that they can apply to the program. Students who are not eligible for tuition benefits may be eligible for external funding, such as NIH individual fellowships or career development awards.

Students may also be eligible for federal student loans for the MBMI program but not the certificate program.


I have been admitted but would like to defer my admission. What should I do?

Students should notify the Program Coordinator by email of their intentions to defer admission. Students deferring admission should notify the Program Coordinator of their intention to resume their program as early as possible, but no later than two weeks before the first day of classes.