Clinical Social Work Informatics

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Clinical Social Work Informatics: The Proposal of a New Specialty Discipline

In 2006 the article “Social Work Informatics: A New Specialty” was published and the authors called for the specialty of Social Work Informatics to be established [1]. They defined this new specialty “ a combination of computer science, information science, and social work designed to assist in the management and processing of data, information, and knowledge to support social work practice”[1]. This important article expressed the absolute need for a new specialty to be established that blends Social Work and Informatics.

This ClinInfoWiki posting proposes the development of another specialty called Clinical Social Work Informatics. This specialty would blend Clinical Informatics with the practice of Clinical Social Work. Clinical Social Workers use “…a variety of systems-based interventions that use advanced generalist as well as ecologically based frameworks, family and group systems, and an eclectic integration of cognitive, behavioral, and psychodynamic methods”[2] to improve the lives of their clients. Clinical Social Workers are fully embedded in all areas of mental health care in the community, health facilities, hospitals, jails etc. These professionals are in an opportune position to integrate with Clinical Informatics to enhance their ability to provide care using fully integrated information, technology, and systems.

There is incredible opportunity to grow and develop Clinical Social Work Informatics into a distinct and robust field of study and practice. Examples of how Clinical Social Work could benefit from an infusion of informatics:

--Develop Clinical Social Work specific decision support tools for Electronic Health Records.

--Integrate Clinical Social Work best practices with technology to design innovative tools for clinicians.

--Develop open-source Clinical Social Work assessments offered as free downloads.

--Develop comprehensive Clinical Case Management tools using tablet and handheld devices.

--Utilize fully integrated mobile technology to improve the information flow and efficiency for outreach Clinical Social Workers.

The exact impact of a Clinical Social Work Informatics specialty is unknown at this time. Through research, development, and practice this specialty can become a reality. It is noteworthy to mention that Physicians now have a Clinical Informatics Sub-Specialty and it’s time for Clinical Social Workers to follow suit.


[1] Parker-Oliver, D., Demiris, G. Social Work Informatics: A New Specialty. Social Work: 2006. 51:2: 127-134

[2] Maguire, L. Clinical Social Work: Beyond Generalist Practice with Individuals, Groups, and Families. 1st ed. Belmont: Brooks Cole; 2001.