This series in Computers and Medicine had its origins when I met Jerry Stone of Springer-Verlag at a SCAMC meeting in 1982. We determined that there was a need for good collections of papers that would help disseminate the results of research and application in this field. I had already decided to do what is now Information Systems for Patient Care, and Jerry contributed the idea of making it part of a series. In 1984 the first book was published, and—thanks to Jerry’s efforts — Computers and Medicine was underway.
Since that time, there have been many changes. Sadly, Jerry died at a very early age and cannot share in the sucess of the series that he helped found. On the bright side, however, many of the early goals of the series have been met. As the result of equipment improvements and the consequent lowering of costs, computers are being used in a growing number of medical applications, and the health care community is very computer literate. Thus, the focus of concern has turned from learning about the technology to understanding how that technology can be exploited in a medical environment.
This maturing of what is now called medical informatics caused me to reevaluate my objectives. I had a choice of learning more about the medical domain or building on my development experience to concentrate on the computer science aspects of system implementation. I chose the latter. I made many friends in my work with computers and medicine—at Johns Hopkins, in the professional community, and at Springer-Verlag. It has taken me longer that I expected just to say goodbye.
However, with this revised introduction I close out my last year as series editor. I must thank the authors and production people who made it all so easy for me. I am very pleased that Helmuth Orthner, of the George Washington University Medical Center, will succeed me as series editor. We have worked together for over a decade, and I am certain that he will bring the knowledge, insight, and background that will make this series respond to the dynamic needs of medical informatics.
By way of conclusion, let me observe that although many things have changed, the need for this series has not diminished. In the original Series Preface I wrote that there was a gap between current practice and the state-of-the-art. The three paragraphs that followed are equally true today, and I close out this final preface with them.
The lag in the diffusion of technology results from a combination of two factors. First, there are few sources designed to assist practitioners in learning what the new technology can do. Secondly, because the potential is not widely understood, there is a limited marketplace for some of the more advanced applications; this in turn limits commercial interest in the development of new products.
In the next decade, one can expect the field of medical information science to establish a better understanding of the role of computers in medicine. Furthermore, those entering the health care professions already will have had some formal training in computer science. For the near term, however, there is a clear need for books designed to illustrate how computers can assist in the practice of medicine. For without these collections, it will be very difficult for the practitioner to learn about a technology that certainly will alter his or her approach to medicine.
And that is the purpose of this series: the presentation of readings about the interaction of computers and medicine. The primary objectives are to describe the current state-of-the-art and to orient medical and health professionals and students with little or no experience with computer applications. We hope that this series will help in the rational transfer of computer technology to medical care.
Laurel, Maryland 1988