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Groundbreaking health informatics book shows health-care infrastructure solutions

University of Illinois professor Bruce Schatz, a faculty member at the Institute for Genomic Biology, has co-authored a groundbreaking book on Health Informatics, based on his popular computer science course. The text is the first book combining the solutions of modern computer science with the problems of modern medical science. The book is expected to be a key reference for professionals working in health management, from information to healthcare executive, health information technologist to computer scientist, and physician to patient.

Contained within is a comprehensive survey detailing the use of modern computing to support modern medicine. Computer and information science solutions can address the problems of medicine and public health, specifically the lack of health measurement, and supercomputers and sensors are now able to support adequate health management. Viable healthcare has a practical solution through Internet technologies.

"Much of health information is neither black nor white, but resides in the center of an information distribution curve, the grey area in-between well and sick, positive and negative," says Schatz. Schatz explains that while medical records are stored on databases and retrieved on computers, the information remains mostly on paper with handwritten notes and test results.

There is a way of utilizing both the electronic medical record of the past and the personalized genomic medicine of the future. It gathers information from all the sources affecting personal health: from the bodies of individuals to the societies of populations.

"What is needed is a vast backbone, a health care infrastructure consisting broadly of health and deeply of medical information, which is recorded through personal sensors, analyzed on supercomputers, communicated through networks, and accessed through computers," says Schatz. His new book is about that infrastructure: who will use it, what problems it solves, where it will be used, why it chooses its designs, and how it works.

Genomics and Personalizing Medicine

Schatz discusses the subject of genetics and genomic medicine in a chapter entitled "Genomes for Individual Ability":

"The field of genetics exploded in the 20th century with the rise of molecular biology, the genome project, and the mapping of the human genome. Whereas genetics had previously been largely a descriptive discipline of genotypes and phenotypes, the sequencing of the genome has opened the world of protein processes and molecular expression.

The promise of the genome is captured by the P4 vision, personalized medicine, and the newly emerging discipline of Systems Biology. P4 stands for predictive, personalized, preventive, and participatory, characteristics that refer to human biology and the application of genome information to each individual. It is expected that knowledge of the genome will permit the prediction of health and disease. It will be possible to determine at the earliest stage that an individual has a risk for a later condition, or a threat to good health. The information will be personalized and suited for just that one individual whose character is contained in the genetic code. Because the genes being measured are finite fixed locations, genomic medicine is limited in its ability to measure variation of individuals within populations. Only data from the innermost rings of health determinants is included."

Healthcare Infrastructure: Health Systems for Individuals and Populations describes a new healthcare infrastructure that will gather personal health records from every individual and correlate each longitudinal record across whole populations. The book explains the problems of personal medicine and public health, then the solutions possible with information technology.

Bruce Schatz is professor and head of medical information science at Illinois and an affiliate in computer science. He previously served as an advisor to Mosaic at Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and ran the digital libraries projects for north campus. Schatz also was the largest supercomputer user at NCSA and the largest cloud computer user at the Department of Computer Science. He now works on health informatics with colleagues at numerous organizations including Carle Hospital in Urbana, Illinois. His co-author, Dr. Richard Berlin, co-teaches the CS 416: Health Informatics course with Schatz.


Contact: Nicholas Vasi
Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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