The role of leadership in informatics and engineering academia in lowering the cost of quality care

by Chimezie Ogbuji

The response by the Health Care industry to the quality reporting requirements of the ACA and the subsequent response to that response (by the Dept. of Pres. Obama's HHS) of slashing the number of measures that need to be reported demonstrates how much the use of information systems (and informatics) in the medical information systems of the US is in the dark ages (as a director of clinical research once put it to me many times).

The informatics needs of converting relational healthcare data into various target variables for the purpose of aggregate "reporting" is a solved problem from the perspective of database theory, however risk averse healthcare providers shell out millions to hegemony-oriented software companies (whether it be those that sell shrink wrapped products or those that sell services) to solve trivial informatics problems.

I think there is a great opportunity for AI (in general), and logic-based knowledge representation (specifically) to be resurrected from the graveyard (or winter) of pure research into playing a prominent role in the engineering underlying what really needs to be done to lower the cost associated with leveraging information to make the provision of care more efficient.

Perhaps, even the idea of the Semantic Web (separate from the WWW-related technologies that enable it) can avoid falling for the same fate and be a part of this. However, the stewards of the places where peer-reviewed scientific research is done and literature is produced on the topic(s) of informatics (web-based informatics even) need to jettison the cancer of obsession with aesthetic / academic purity: novelty of methods described in written material, citation history of authors, thoroughness of literature review, etc. This cancer is what seems to separate pure (computer) science research from informatics, or the promulgation or accreditation of professional engineering (software or otherwise).  

The development of standards, curricula, system methodology, and (ultimately) scientific literature needs to be more problem-focused (ergo engineering).  The things that will make a difference will not be the things that are truly novel but those that involve the combination of engineering solutions that are novel and others that are mundane.