Software Innovation in Medicine with Special Emphasis on Artificial Intelligence …

IFSR Newsletter 1984 Vol. 4 No. 1 Spring
R. Trappl, A. Szer, H. Hiibner
A most recent aspect of software development is Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI aims at producing “intelligent” behavior by programs, i.e., reasoning, planning, vision, language understanding and producing. There is a special discipline “Artificial Intelligence in Medicine (AIM)” with special organizations, symposia, etc.
Austria is a country with little natural resources but with a highly educated population. Instead of relying on imported software, Austria might decide to develop software by itself and, perhaps, even sell it with profit abroad.
The Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies, commissioned and supported by the Federal Ministry of Science and Research, therefore undertook to study software innovation in medicine, especially the very promising AI methods.
This study was performed on four levels:
• First, making a survey of existing medical software (hospital, laboratory, private practice), both abroad and in Austria;
• Second, investigating the innovation process which led to it; .
• Third, sending a special questionnaire to the scientists who had developed the forefront of AIM software, worldwide; and
• Fourth, conducting expert interviews with leading Austrian decision makers in health care matters.
These latter interviews were focused on three potential AI software products, which were chosen with respect to AIM research already undertaken in Austria:
• Automatic analysis and classification of complex patterns and images in medicine (e.g. ECG, EEG, X-ray, tomograph, ultrasound pictures);
• Medical expert systems for the physician’s practice and for hospitals (systems which contain a knowledge base, a reasoning program, an explanation part, etc., and which could bring latest medical knowledge even to the outpost practitioner); and
• Medical expert systems on personal computers as an aid in self-care.
The replies to the questionnaires showed that the costs for developing AIM software are surprisingly low, compared to other investments. Only a small number of specially trained scientists, together with cooperative physicians are needed, plus’ some special equipment (e.g. LISP-machines) not yet installed in Austria.
The experts interviewed in Austria had little hope of reducing the costs of medical care by introducing AIM software in this country. Several of them stressed the importance of doing AIM research in Austria itself, both keeping pace with the international development and for export.
Considering the demand for software, especially AI software, in medicine and health care in general, the AIM research results already obtained in Austria, and the potential revenue from exporting AIM software, the funding of four projects for the development of specific AIM software is proposed.

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