Applications of informatics in Medicine and especially in Neurology
KOTSAVASILOGLOU C., BALOYANNIS S
Informatics is a tool-science like Mathematics for all other sciences. It is used both, in the daily work and for research purposes. The aim of this paper is the brief and systematic description of all the aspects of relation between Informatics and Medicine with specific focus on Neurology.
Informatics is used for years by health institutions for the administration of the patient's admissions, storehouse, economic management and other specific jobs. Nursing departments and clinical doctors have over the last years started using personal computers and proper software for managing information for their daily work. Today's hospital information systems are distinguished by high integration of all the software subsystems they are composed of. This results in less human intervention in various complex procedures and therefore doctors profit more time to spend with the patients. The patient's data is available not only in the hospital of admission but in all health units of a large territorial area. This is a major benefit for patients and doctors and the health system as well. Information technologies allow health authorities, hospitals and academic centers to promote Preventive Medicine programs for high risk patients. Preventive Medicine is an emerging medical and regional activity resulting in major impact on public health and savings for the public economy. Telemedicine is a relatively new medical field which with the support of informatics allows doctors to exchange medical information among remote territorial regions. In this way the health system can cover specific needs in specialized doctors in distant geographical regions.
Beyond the daily clinical work, doctors have to do research work. Most of the parts of the preparation of a research paper are done by the use of the internet for bibliographic research, spreadsheet and statistical programs for data elaboration and word processing programs for the final text. The time for a paper to prepare is short and usually this is well documented. As a result an increased amount of papers is published every month in various medical magazines causing a collateral problem. Doctors now have to read many more papers in order to select what is suitable for their scientific field of interest. A solution to this problem could be the adoption of the Semantic Web over the next years by the internet providers. This means that the search for scientific information will be done using structured knowledge entities.
Another area of interest that relates Informatics and Medicine is education. Informatics today can provide powerful educational tools for local and distance training, so "Continuous Medical Education" can be more effective and at low cost.
Neurology's relation to Informatics is very close because the brain is the most complex information system in nature. Many scientists have tried from 1940 to set the theoretical basis of what is called "Artificial intelligence" and to realize software systems that can simulate fractions of the brain functions. This new branch of Informatics deals with problems like "reasoning", "learning", "problem solving", "language perception and production", "pattern recognitions" and many more.
An interesting field of Informatics is Neural Networks, a concept lend by Neurology. They are artificial mathematical models consisting of virtual neurons and connections among them. They can simulate partly the real biological neural networks helping scientists solve complex information processing problems, like pattern recognition. These models can help us understand better the brain functionality as well.
Information technologies play crucial role in the Human Genome Project. A large amount of data was analyzed and stored using powerful computers and programs.
It has already become widely acceptable the fact that relation between Informatics and Medicine is very close and that will be enhanced further over the next years. Encephalos 2009, 46(4):191-200.