What to expect from chapter 5

Chapter 5:
Best practice recommendations in childrens’ medical care

This is the second chapter profile in the book about computer science in the field of medicine. However the story and computing activities are quite different this time. This chapter is about a new collaboration between a national corporation that supports children’s hospitals, in part through computing projects, and a consortium of physicians who want to ana­lyze data on medical conditions in a specialized patient sub-population. The physicians have the content knowledge and the corporation has the computing expertise. The groups work collaboratively and very closely together. Interestingly, there are people on the team with interdisciplinary computing-medical education and experience. There are many technical challenges to address in developing this system. Protecting highly sensi­tive patient data is a critical concern and focus of the architectural design. The project has a an applied research orientation.

One of the unusual aspects of this chapter is the large number of tech­nical Sidebars. There is a good reason for this. The database project at the heart of this profile is built upon computer science that goes well beyond what a typical discussion of software engineering projects might imply. That is because computing theory and application is driving many aspects of contemporary health care data management. There is a lot of background information not only necessary for following the story of this project, but enlightening because of the insight it gives into how deeply computing has infiltrated into medical records, data standardization efforts, and other areas. The sidebars show clearly where computer scientists can, and are, influencing the direction of medicine in a positive way. Federal health care reform legislation is discussed as it impacts the project. There is an in-depth focus on lessons the development team learned from this project.

As a result, technically this chapter has a strong focus on database architecture development, highly secure communication between serv­ers, data gathering and discrimination, managing multiple encoding standards, current and evolving standards for electronic health records. All for the eventual purpose of performing applied research and analysis. Computer science skills you need to pursue a career implementing this type of project include architecture, database design and data security. Principles of user interface design would be helpful as well as experience with large software engineering projects in general.

An interest in medicine and biology will be important for projects like this one. Some coursework in chemistry and human biology (whatever is available) would be helpful. Collaborative teamwork, as with many of the projects described in this book, is critical. If you are interested in applied research in the natural sciences, or contributing to health care reform initiatives, medical computing is an excellent area to consider. You will be on the cutting edge in any number of areas, from system design to developing international standards for data management. There are for profit and non-profit businesses who hire people to work in these areas. Employment in a large hospital is an option as well. Wherever you go, you will have the opportunity to see the effect of your work on a national level.