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Research Projects in Computer Science

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					   Frontiers of Health Informatics Research: An Innovative Graduate-
                     Level Computer Science Course
          Chrysanne DiMarco, Ph.D. and H. Dominic Covvey, B.A., M.Sc., I.S.P.
        Department of Computer Science, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario

                   ABSTRACT
                                                                          PURPOSE
We describe here a new graduate course that
introduces Computer Science M.Sc. and Ph.D.            This course is intended to examine work at the
students to research in Health Informatics. The        forefront of Health Informatics. It examines the
course examines the nature and content of the          nature and content of the work, and identifies
work at the forefront of Health Informatics, and       what is known as well as the outlines of what
identifies what is known as well as the outlines of    must yet be developed, defined, or discovered to
what must yet be developed, defined, or                bring the work to the desired outcome. From the
discovered to bring the work to the desired            perspective of Computer Science it attempts to
outcome. It is intended to help students identify      identify and dissect out interesting research
and dissect out interesting research problems,         problems, and to identify potentially applicable
and to identify potentially applicable concepts        concepts and methods.
and methods.
                                                       The primary objectives of the course include:
               INTRODUCTION                            using leading edge research projects as
                                                       exemplars that show the kind of research
The University of Waterloo Department of               performed in Health Informatics and illustrate
Computer Science (DCS) launched a program1             how such research is done, helping students to
that offers Computer Science graduate students         identify potential research topics for their
an opportunity to specialize in Health                 graduate theses, and introducing students to the
Informatics. This is the first phase of a multi-year   breadth and depth of Health Informatics research.
plan to offer a graduate program in Health
Informatics. During this phase we have identified                         STUDENTS
several action steps that include:
1. Encouraging and fostering collaboration             Frontiers of Health Informatics is listed as a
     among faculty interested in Health                graduate (700-level) course in Computer
     Informatics around several research foci,         Science. To qualify for the course, students must
     most particularly intelligent health systems,     have satisfied the undergraduate requirements in
     large-scale health data management, and           Computer Science and be admitted to the
     medical imaging;                                  Masters or Ph.D. programs. It is generally
2. Identifying graduate students with an interest      expected that students who take the course will
     in health applications and undertaking            pursue a research thesis in Health Informatics.
     research projects with partner organizations
     in the health sector;                                       LEARNING OBJECTIVES
3. Seeking funding for specific research
     projects; and                                     The following have been identified as the
4. Developing a course that prepares students          primary learning objectives. On completing this
     for research in Health Informatics.               course, the student will be able to:

This article describes the last of these steps, the    1.   Identify the major current thrusts of Health
design and development of the course entitled               Informatics research, articulating the
“Frontiers of Health Informatics Research.                  purpose of the tools/capabilities/system
Future phase of our program define additional               being conceptualized and developed, the
graduate, as well as undergraduate courses.                 detailed nature of what is actually being
                                                            created, the effects the products of the
                                                            research will have and the values they will



38313025-bdcf-45fb-a3da-4aced2b68e6a.doc
     deliver when applied in health settings, and
     the challenges and unsolved problems that
     lie in the way of completing them.                              COURSE CONTENT

2.   Explain the pathway to the current research,       The course is organized along lines familiar to
     describing predecessor systems/approaches          Computer Scientists. It addresses the following
     and what they did and did not do, and the          topics (note not all sub-topics will be covered in
     needs that spawned their existence.                each offering of the course)

3.   Define next steps in terms of potential            1. Health Information Management:
     research problems that likely lie ahead of         1. Health Object Model.
     current work and that can potentially              2. VLDBs.
     significantly advance the field. These are         3. Health Data Analysis (OLAP) and
     areas for possible graduate theses.                    Presentation.
                                                        4. Health Data Warehousing.
4.   Identify concepts and methods from                 5. Health Data Mining.
     Computer Science, Mathematics, and other           6. Advanced Query Systems.
     disciplines that might be productively             7. Co-operative Health ISs.
     applied in this research.                          8. High-Level Languages.
                                                        9. Health-Related Nomenclatures.
5.   Launch his or her own research project more        10. Computer-Based Patient Records.
     independently given the knowledge gained           11. Standards.
     related to how research is performed.              12. Health Process Simulation and Modeling.

             COURSE CONCEPT                             2. Intelligent Health Systems:
                                                        1. The Nature of Cognition and Decision-
The nature of this course is best illustrated by             Making.
analogy. Consider the “known” in Computer               2. Neural Networks.
Science as an island surrounded by the unknown,         3. Natural Language Processing.
the ocean. Further envision there being 7 major         4. Natural Language Generation.
directions that radiate from the center of the          5. Knowledge Abstraction and Summarization.
island towards the edges of the island. These           6. Knowledge Representation.
seven major directions are the major vectors            7. Expert Clinical/Administrative Decision-
along which Computer Science knowledge is                    Making/Support Systems.
developed and on which Health Informatics               8. Care Guidance Systems.
development depends: Health Information                 9. Image and Signal Processing and
Management; Intelligent Health Systems; The                  Understanding.
Health User Interface and Interactive Systems;          10. Patient Monitoring.
Health Communications; Mathematical                     11. Prosthetic Systems.
Computing in Health; Operating Systems,
Languages, and the Health Technologic                   3. The Health User Interface and Interactive
Infrastructure; and Social Aspects of Computing.        Systems:
The edge of the island is at some distance from         1. Adaptive Interfaces for Providers.
the center based on the progress in Computer            2. Advanced Interactive Technologies.
Science research, and the edge of the island            3. Image Reconstruction Systems.
represents the limit of the known in each               4. Computer-Assisted Surgery.
direction.                                              5. Voice, Gesture, and Handwriting
                                                            Recognition.
This course introduces students to the major            6. Human Factors in Health Systems.
directions of research and the specific Health          7. Navigation in Rich Environments.
Informatics sub-vectors of each major direction.
It takes students from the known to the edge of         4. Health Communications:
the known island, where the island must be              1. Multimedia Communications Technologies.
extended if work at the edge is to be successful.       2. Telehealth and Telemedicine.
                                                        3. Data Compression.


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4.    Encryption.                                       3.   In the first lecture in each topic area one of
5.    Data Standards and Mapping.                            the course faculty will parse the area, list the
6.    Virtual Conferencing and Collaboration.                major sub-areas or sub-directions of Health
7.    Internet-Based Systems.                                Informatics research, and summarize current
8.    Communications System Performance and                  knowledge. Each of these introductory
      Adaptability.                                          lectures stands alone as an overview of the
9.    Health Information Networks.                           given topical area and will be open to
10.   Workflow Management Systems.                           interested faculty and students not enrolled
11.   Standards.                                             in the course.
12.   Interoperability.                                 4.   The second lecture will also be delivered by
13.   Automated Message Analysis and                         one of the course faculty and will identify
      Management.                                            key issues in the area, as well as where gaps
                                                             in knowledge, methods, and tools are known
5. Mathematical Computing in Health:                         to exist.
1. Efficient Algorithms (reconstruction,                5.   The third lecture in the area will be
    compression/ decompression, image                        performed by one or more students who will
    processing, etc.).                                       have researched a specific Health
2. Biostatistics.                                            Informatics sub-topic, and will identify and
3. Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials.                         characterize open problems, i.e., where the
4. Mathematical Modeling of Physiological                    edge of the known is, where it must be
    Systems.                                                 extended for work to progress, and what
5. Signal Reconstruction (e.g., Cardiac                      some of the potential answers or solutions
    Conduction from the Surface ECG).                        might come from. This presentation will be
6. Techniques for Functional Magnetic                        one of the primary bases for student
    Resonance Imaging.                                       evaluation.
7. Real-time Biological Control Systems.                6.   The final lecture in each topical area will be
                                                             a keynote talk by an invited speaker (a
6. Operating Systems, Languages, and the                     “star”) who is doing original Computer
Health Infrastructure:                                       Science research in a selected Health
1. High-Level Languages for Health Systems.                  Informatics sub-topic. This lecture will
2. Innovative Operating Systems for Health                   highlight the problems that are "right at the
    Environments.                                            edge" of current research, impart an
3. Security.                                                 understanding of the key advances required,
4. Tools for Managing Clinical and Basic                     possible solutions or at least the direction in
    Research.                                                which they lie, and known barriers. This
5. Enterprise Integration.                                   final lecture will also be open to all students
                                                             and faculty. Other meetings and discussions
7. Social Aspects of Computing:                              with the invited “stars” will add value to the
1. Privacy.                                                  program.
2. Economics of Computing.
3. Ethics and Computing                                            STUDENT EVALUATION
4. Psycho-Social Impacts of Computing
5. Evaluation of the Efficacy of Health                 The methods for evaluating student performance
    Systems.                                            are not fully settled at this time. However, the
                                                        following are the main approaches under
              COURSE FORMAT                             consideration:
                                                        1. Each student will choose a topic area and at
The following is the basic format for the course:            least one sub-topic which he/she will
1. The course meets for 1.5 hours twice per                  research in-depth, performing an in-depth
    week. Two faculty will lead the course.                  literature review on that subtopic, identifying
2. 5-7 seminar hours will be allotted for each of            what has been done in the area, the present
    the major topical areas or directions (1-7               gaps, and the possible directions for
    above), with 1.5 to 2 hours being given over             research. Each will present his/her review in
    to an invited “star” speaker.                            a 20-30 minute presentation to the class,
                                                             which will be videotaped for the course


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     archives. These videos will be used by future
     students. The student will be graded for both
     content and presentation quality.
2.   The rest of the class will record their
     questions for each speaker, and will be
     graded on both their understanding of the
     topical area and their critical analysis of the
     presentation.
3.   We are reserving the possibility that each
     student will also undergo a highly structured
     20-minute oral examination on the overall
     course material. Part of the motivation for
     considering this is to improve student
     performance at oral exams.

It should be noted that the subtopics that will be
covered in each offering of the course will
depend on the availability of faculty with the
requisite expertise, stars, and students with
specific interests.

               OTHER IMPACTS

Both the introductory lecture for each topical
area and the "star" sessions will be open to
Computer Science faculty and students, and to
healthcare professionals in the region who are
interested in Health Informatics. External
participation will be facilitated using audio and
document conferencing techniques. In this way,
the course will foster collaboration with
professionals in the health system, and provide
an educational opportunity for interested health
professionals.

          ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This work is supported by the University of
Waterloo Department of Computer Science. The
authors would like to thank Prof. Nick Cercone
for his support of this program.

                  REFERENCE

1.   Health Informatics Education Working
     Paper, Computer Science Department
     Technical Report CS-99-24, September
     1999.

For additional information contact the authors
via: cdimarco@logos.math.uwaterloo.ca or
dcovvey@sprynet.com.




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