Healthcare informatics and the semantic web

July 17th, 2007

Government Health IT has a short article on the role of Semantic Web technologies in healthcare information systems with the tagline “Forget wikis and blogs — are you ready for the Semantic Web?“. Nearly everyone agrees that healthcare is a very promising application area for information systems grounded in semantic representations. Some of the earliest applications of controlled vocabularies and semantic network based representations were for medical informatics systems. But healthcare informatics is also a huge business with a history going back to the 1950s and lots of legacy systems. It’s not an easy application area to casually take up.

The article, Health care eyes Web 3.0, mostly touches on the promise and gives some examples of how the Semantic Web can help, with lots of quotes from researchers and vendors. It’s a bit vague about what the technology is — whether it’s RDF and OWL or simple keyword tagging. Here’s one quote that caught my eye:

“Moving to the Semantic Web will not be trouble-free, but it shouldn’t be too
painful. Organizations still using older technology such as MUMPS should consider upgrading soon. And organizations will need to upgrade computers and network infrastructures to handle the computational demands of larger datasets. But for the most part, the transition won’t affect organizations too much, said Bob Shimp, vice president of Oracle’s Global Technology Business Unit.”

Note — your mileage may vary.