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Methods Inf Med. 1999 Dec;38(4-5):229-38.

Scalable software architectures for decision support.

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Stanford Medical Informatics, Stanford University School of Medicine, CA, USA. Musen@Stanford.EDU


Interest in decision-support programs for clinical medicine soared in the 1970s. Since that time, workers in medical informatics have been particularly attracted to rule-based systems as a means of providing clinical decision support. Although developers have built many successful applications using production rules, they also have discovered that creation and maintenance of large rule bases is quite problematic. In the 1980s, several groups of investigators began to explore alternative programming abstractions that can be used to build decision-support systems. As a result, the notions of "generic tasks" and of reusable problem-solving methods became extremely influential. By the 1990s, academic centers were experimenting with architectures for intelligent systems based on two classes of reusable components: (1) problem-solving methods--domain-independent algorithms for automating stereotypical tasks--and (2) domain ontologies that captured the essential concepts (and relationships among those concepts) in particular application areas. This paper highlights how developers can construct large, maintainable decision-support systems using these kinds of building blocks. The creation of domain ontologies and problem-solving methods is the fundamental end product of basic research in medical informatics. Consequently, these concepts need more attention by our scientific community.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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