6.893--Medical Computing

Spring Term 1995
Prof. Peter Szolovits (psz@mit.edu)
Class times: MW 2:30-4:00pm
Room 24-307

Course Announcement

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, 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 technical contributions.

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.

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 recently-built 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.


Professor: Peter Szolovits 253-3476, psz@mit.edu
Course secretary: Heather Grove 253-5860, heather@medg.lcs.mit.edu

Textbook for the class will be Shortliffe, et al., Medical Informatics: Computer Applications in Health Care, Addison-Wesley 1990. It is now available from Quantum Books (not from the Coop, I think) for $45.95, which is about 7% off list.

Class notes will regularly be posted on the World-Wide Web at URL: http://www.medg.lcs.mit.edu/courses/6893-S95/6893.html (this file).
In general, we will not be able to post copyrighted material, but notes, class lists, outlines, and reading lists will appear there. Members of the class interested in posting material or providing cross-references to other URL's should please contact me. See material contributed thus far, below.

Course conduct and grading

Grades will be based on grades assigned on a class project or projects and on a final paper that will be expected from each student. Members of the class are encouraged to collaborate with each other on projects, and co-authored project write-ups will be happily accepted. The final paper must be written individually, though sharing of ideas and discussion with others is fine.

The class will be "interactive," and students will be asked to make brief presentations at almost all class meetings.


The class will meet every Monday and Wednesday afternoon for 1 1/2 hours, except that there are no MIT classes on Feb. 20 (President's Day), Mar. 27-31 (Spring Break), and Apr. 17 (Patriot's Day). According to the MIT schedule, Tuesday Feb. 21 is supposed to be conducted on a Monday schedule, but because of other commitments I have for that day, we will have only the Wednesday meeting of the class during that week.


I plan to have a number of guest lectures by Boston-area medical computing specialists, but we do not yet have a final schedule of guests or indeed daily topics. The following are some of the topics that will be (or have been) covered:

References and Pointers

I am happy to collect appropriate pointers to reference information and index them here. Your contributions are welcome.

Columbia University's pointers to medical sites on the Web.

Duke University's Medical Informatics Links.

Stanford's CAMIS list of Medical Informatics Training Programs.

Thanks to Tom Lee for another pointer to Web Health Related Sites.

Jiri Schindler has collected a set of references on electronic medical record systems.

The following references about clinical practice guidelines were contributed to the MEDINF-L mailing list by Alvaro Margolis, M.D., Dept. of Medical Informatics, U. of Utah School of Medicine. He also points out that there is also on the Web a list of AHCPR clinical guidelines.

Here is an extensive set of notes for Columbia University's Introduction to Medical Informatics course on the Web. Here are some other Web sites I have found interesting:

Fellowships in Medical Informatics
Visible Human Project
Sunrise Home Page for Health Care Informatics Standards
CBR Medical Demos and Project Descriptions
Privacy and Integrity of Computerized Medical Records
MSDS Healthcare Standards Home Page
DOD Telemedicine: Federated Laboratory Intro

Last update: psz@mit.edu - 4/5/95