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Adverse event "An unintended injury that was caused by medical management and that resulted in measurable disability" [Harvard Medical Practice Study].
Agents Software programs designed to interact or work together with a degree of autonomy to perform a set of tasks or satisfy a set of goals. Agents are typically capable of flexible, autonomous action in a changeable and unpredictable environment.
Application A computer program or system designed to offer support for managing a specific clinical problem typically through the performance of a series of tasks.
Argumentation A decision making procedure based on constructing logical arguments for and against a number of available choices, assessing their relative merits and weighing their relative strengths.
Artificial Intelligence Typically, computational techniques to automate tasks that require human intelligence and the ability to reason.
Bayes' theorem The classic statistical approach to implement probabalistic reasoning in AI applications.
Bayesian Networks Inference systems which encode probabilistic information in a domain in oder to manage uncertainty.
Bioinformatics The application of computers to biology.
Clinical algorithm Any computation, formula, survey, or look-up table, useful in healthcare.

[The Medical Algorithms Project]

Clinical Pathways See Integrated Care Pathways
Clinical protocol A standard set of tasks that define precisely how classes of patients should be managed or treated.
Clinical practice guideline Validated policy statements representing best clinical practice. Used to support standardised patient care.
Code The unique numerical identifier for a medical concept in a medical terminology system.
Concept A term to define a class of objects. The "unit of symbolic processing" [Manchester University Medical Informatics Group] in a medical terminology.
Critical appraisal The process of assessing and interpreting medical research results systematically paying particular attention to their validity and relevance.
Data Dictionary A set of data declarations and definitions stored in a database management system
Data mining The use of tools and techniques, often from Artificial Intelligence, to determine patterns from a set of data.
(Clinical) Decision support Automated tools that help clinicians deliver or manage patient care.
(Clinical) Decision support system Computer system typically consisting of a knowledge base and an inference engine (ideally integrated with workflow components and clinical data embedded in a electronic medical record system) that is able to generate advice based on case-specific data.
Decision Theory A formal framework for making logical decisions in problem areas containing risk, uncertainty and probabilities, typically employing Bayesian inference methods.
Decision tree A method of representing knowledge, widely used for classification tasks, which makes structured decisions in a hierarchical tree-like fashion. Decision tree algorithms include Bayes.
Description logic Logic-based knowledge representation formalism for modelling a domain in terms of concepts (classes), roles (properties and relations) and individuals (instances of classes).
eHealth New computer and networking technologies applied to healthcare.
Electronic Medical Record A computerised healthcare record.
Expert System A computer system, typically based on artificial intelligence techniques, that represents and applies knowledge to provide expert quality advice, diagnoses and recommendations for solving real world problems. Typically made up of knowledge bases and an inference engine.
Health (medical) informatics The use of computers for managing of clinical knowledge, information and data.
Induction A form of logical inference which allows generalisations to be made from particular examples.
Inference A logical reasoning process to draw conclusions from facts, suppositions and data.
Inference engine The 'reasoning' part of a computer program which interprets knowledge and data to determine logical conclusions.
Integrated Care Pathways Integrated Care Pathways (or Clinical Pathways) are multidisplinary plans of care, drawn along a timeline, to support the implementation of clinical guidelines and protocols.
Knowledge Acquisition The definition and transfer of expert knowledge from a human to a computer program (typically a knowledge base).
Knowledge base A systematically structured set of knowledge from an individual field stored in an AI program, typically as concepts, facts and rules.
Knowledge representation Mapping techniques which can formalise the knowledge of the objects in a domain and how to reason in that domain in order to support automated inferencing.
Neural Networks Artificial neural networks are information processing systems composed of a large number of highly interconnected processing elements (modelled on neurons in the brain) linked by weighted connections (mirroring synapses).
Ontology A model of a domain that defines the concepts existing in that domain as well as taxonomic and other relationships existing between the concepts.


A set of concepts, their attributes and the relationships between them within a given application area, typically represented as a knowledge base. Within health informatics, an ontology would be a formal, computer-understandable description of a domain.

Patient safety "Freedom from accidental injury" [To Err is Human].
Systematic review A summary and critical appraisal of medical research literature in a specified domain to establish the effects (potential benefits and harms) of an intervention.
Tacit knowledge Knowledge that is difficult to express and/or communicate formally. Includes subjective insights and thoughts.
Taxonomy (i)The theoretical study of classification
(ii)A hierarchical classification model of a given domain
Term An agreed name in a medical terminology for a medical condition or treatment
Terminology A controlled set of standard terms used to describe clinical activities. e.g. SNOMED
Workflow The process of co-ordinating patients, resources, information and clinical and administrative procedures in order to streamline care delivery.

Wyatt JC, Liu JL. Basic concepts in medical informatics. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2002 Nov;56(11):808-12.

[PubMed]   [JECH Online]


" This glossary defines terms used in the comparatively young science of medical informatics. It is hoped that it will be of interest to both novices and professionals in the field. "

 bullet  Extensive Health Informatics Glossary (Handbook of Medical Informatics)  bullet  Glossary of Health Informatics Terms (CEN/TC 251)  bullet  The Clinical Informatics Wiki (on  bullet  Glossary of EBM Terms (CEBM, University of Toronto)  bullet  Glossary of terms used in medicine (Bandolier - journal on evidence-based healthcare)  bullet  Glossary on EBM-related terms, guidelines and clinical specialties from The National Guideline Clearinghouse™  bullet  Glossary of Healthcare Informatics Terms -
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Entry on OpenClinical: 2002
Last main update: 2004

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Entry on OpenClinical: 2001   Last modified:
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