Course Announcement: Medical Computing (6.872)

Medicine is (finally) in the middle of an information processing revolution. Dramatic improvements in computer technology are making possible comprehensive record-keeping systems, automated laboratories and therapeutic devices, machine-learning techniques, and sophisticated visualization techniques. Societal demands for cost-effective care result in vast collections of clinical outcomes data that provide opportunities to learn from experience. New organizational structures for providing health care (such as HMO's) and an increased importance of the role of the patient in his or her health care provide additional new opportunities for innovative information technologies.

This class will analyze the computational needs of clinical medicine, review the history of interesting systems and approaches that have begun to support those needs, and present the computer technologies that appear most applicable to contributing to revolutionary advances. We will also have numerous real databases available from Boston-area hospitals, and the participation of doctors from those institutions who are currently developing new systems and applications. Significant emphasis will be placed on societally relevant issues such as preserving confidentiality, security architectures and de-identification of clinical databases.

Some of the homework and a final paper will be based on innovative applications of sophisticated computing techniques to real clinical data. We will explore topics in automated diagnosis, monitoring, detection of errors in treatment, learning new models from data, personalizing explanations to specific patients, etc. We will also examine the architectures of comprehensive clinical information systems.

Students are expected to have a flexible competence in programming, because assignments will involve use of diverse databases and programming languages. A knowledge of artificial intelligence at the level of 6.034 will also be assumed, as many AI techniques will find application in the class material. The class is open to both undergraduate and graduate students, and will qualify for Graduate H credit.

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The course will be structured as a sequence of lectures with a substantial reading requirements. Students will rotate in presenting a summary of the reading assigned for that lecture. A short answer style mid term examination will be given. Each student will be expected to submit a final project along with a high quality paper describing the project.