Bioinformatics vs. Biomedical Informatics - Compare & Contrast

While both fields comprise interdisciplinary subjects including biology, computer science, and information technology, bioinformatics and biomedical informatics serve different purposes in medical research and healthcare.

Bioinformatics researchers specialize in the application of computer technology to manage, manipulate, and interpret large amounts of biological data. An emerging multidisciplinary field which has experienced accelerated growth due to the publication of the Human Genome Project, bioinformatics aims to analyze genetic data to further gene-based research and to discover medical cures. Researchers in bioinformatics use computational biology to create three-dimensional models to test the efficacy of new drugs.

Due to its multidisciplinary nature, bioinformatics attracts a wide range of scientific research professionals who hold master’s and doctoral degrees in genetics, molecular biology, neuroscience, epidemiology, and agriculture. Other professionals in this sector have advanced degrees in mathematics, computer science, and programming.

Many universities offer graduate certificates in bioinformatics; the International Society for Computational Biology has a list of bioinformatics related degree and certificate programs in the United States. Graduate-level certificate programs in bioinformatics are also available through massive open online courses (MOOCs) such as Coursera and EdX.

Biomedical informatics professionals, on the other hand, use information extracted from bioinformatics to solve problems, reduce medical errors, lower healthcare costs, and make healthcare decisions using an individual patient’s biological data. Practitioners in biomedical informatics focus on identifying trends in the data discovered through bioinformatics to analyze the health conditions of patients and the efficiency of healthcare processes.

Coming from a variety of backgrounds, biomedical informatics professionals have master’s or doctoral degrees and bring a diverse range of expertise to their research teams. Many are experts in epidemiology or licensed doctors or nurses with clinical experience. Others have professional experience in health economics, behavioral research psychology, and medical anthropology.

Clinical research teams typically have biostatisticians and computer programmers to calculate and represent data for medical professionals and patients. The American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) has a list of featured biomedical informatics programs degree and certificate programs through universities in the United States. There are more than 150 health informatics courses available from leading university health science programs on Coursera and EdX.

Bioinformatics and biomedical informatics both deal in biological research technology with the aim of advancing scientific knowledge, but each field has distinctive desired outcomes for their end-result applications. When faced with a choice of entering either field, it is important to become familiar with the relevant contributions of each field to know how they are unique.

Bioinformatics Biomedical Informatics
Definition Bioinformatics combines biology, computer science, and information technology to further the knowledge of biological genomic and conduct research to discover cures. Biomedical informatics analyzes bioinformatic data sets to customize cures for patients and streamline care processes in healthcare facilities.
Areas of Research
  • Comparative genomics
  • Evolutionary genomics
  • Biomedicine
  • Microbiology
  • Agriculture
  • Clinical informatics
  • Imaging informatics
  • Consumer health informatics
  • Research informatics
  • Public health informatics
  • Health information management
Work Environments
  • Scientific research laboratories
  • Hospitals
  • Academic medical centers
  • Pharmaceutical laboratories
  • Outdoors
  • Agricultural settings
  • Scientific research laboratories
  • Hospitals
  • Academic medical centers
  • Pharmaceutical laboratories
  • Research institutes
  • Clinics
Sample Careers
  • Researcher
  • Lead investigator
  • Research coordinator
  • Professor
  • Software developer
  • Computer programmer
  • Biostatistician
  • Clinical analyst
  • Clinical informatics manager
  • Research coordinator
  • Educator/trainer
  • Biostatistician
  • Project manager
  • Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO)
  • Chief Information Officer (CIO)
  • Computer programmer
  • Systems analyst
Typical Responsibilities Bioinformaticians develop processes to gather and represent data, write and conduct surveys, design and execute clinical trials, and program statistical and three-dimensional models. They develop and compile massive amounts of data related to genometrics and consult with other science researchers to analyze and interpret data sets. Individuals with PhD or MD degrees are typically lead grant-funded investigations and people with master’s degrees often serve as laboratory research coordinators. Biomedical informatics specialists are people who work with healthcare outcomes. Health informatics specialists train staff and create educational documents for systems. Clinical analysts evaluate data while clinical informatics specialists digitize medical records. Clinical informatics managers oversee the daily operations of healthcare facilities including budgets, safety and regulatory compliance.
Tools & Software
  • Galaxy – an open-source web platform for data-intensive biomedical research
  • SAM (Sequence Alignment Map) tools – generic format for data storage
  • C, C+, Python computer programming languages
  • Geographic information software
Education & Training Professionals in bioinformatics hold master’s or doctoral degrees in epidemiology, genetics, genometrics, pharmacology, mathematics, agriculture, or computer science. Research is encouraged in addition to classroom courses. Some entry-level laboratory technician positions are available to bachelor’s degree holders. Graduate-level certificates in bioinformatics are offered through several universities and through massive open online course (MOOC) providers such as Coursera and EdX.

Biomedical informatics professionals hold master’s or doctoral degrees in health and clinical informatics, epidemiology, health economics, behavioral psychology, and medical anthropology. Many doctors and nurses come to this field from clinical practices. Administrative professionals in this field may hold master’s or doctorate degrees in healthcare administration.

Graduate-level certificates in bioinformatics are offered through several universities and through massive open online course (MOOC) platforms such as Coursera and EdX.

The Bottom Line Bioinformatics uses computational research methods to explore biology, genetics, and medicine. The aim of this field is to process genomic data for research in drug discovery, biology, and medicine. Potential cures for diseases are tested using genomic and biological data using computer-generated imagery. Biomedical informatics uses health data from bioinformatics research to collect, process, analyze information. Data collected and represented in this field enables clinicians, researchers, and administrative professionals to make decisions uniquely tailored to the needs of an individual patient, healthcare processes, or healthcare environments.