Introduction and Organization
Information engineering in Japan places a great deal of weight on computer hardware, software, and data processing. It is a discipline that seeks objective data and emphasizes the conception of new methods of data transfer, storage, processing, and input/output. It also targets research on developing computer devices and systems.
Reviewing the history of the application of computers in medicine, calculating machines for supporting scientists and technologists first appeared in the 1950s. In the 1960s, computers were used for accounting and various statistics. The personal computer appeared in the 1980s and was adopted for personal use in many professions. The systematization of large hospitals, such as university hospitals, pushed ahead rapidly.
In the 1990s, the computer began to be used as a tool to help human thinking, such as in presentations, design, and discovery. When computers became connected to each other through the internet, the distribution of information became very easy and rapid, not only within organizations, but also internationally.
In 2003, a high-quality, “finished” sequence of the human genome was completed. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, bioinformatics appeared as a new discipline, one that uses applied mathematics, informatics, statistics, computer science, and biochemistry to solve biological problems. In medicine, advanced information technologies have been applied to health information infrastructures, electrical clinical guidelines, and knowledge navigation systems.
In response to the needs of the time, the Department of Clinical Information Engineering (CIE) was established at the School of Public Health in April 2007. Its predecessor was the clinical information engineering division of clinical bioinformatics, using Special Coordination Funds for Promoting Science and Technology from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, of Japan.
The purpose of the Department of Clinical Information Engineering is to nurture talented people who have special knowledge and skills at an international level in order to apply advanced information technologies to practical projects in clinical medicine and the health sciences. It offers courses on information system design, development methodology, evaluation and project management in biomedicine, health care and public health in the School of Public Health, and data mining and virtual reality for clinical decision-making in social medicine.
Famous visiting lecturers and researchers from the National Cancer Center and other universities have given lectures here, furthering our hope of becoming a world leader in this field.
The education of graduate students is based on weekly conferences at which the students present the progress on their own research projects and discuss their future directions.
Our research covers the biomedical computer applications that focus on biomedical data (collection, analysis, and representation). It constitutes a combination of information science, computer science, and clinical science designed to assist in the management and processing of data, information, and knowledge to support the practice and delivery of clinical care. Our laboratory is engaged in the following research activities:
(1) Medical Decision-making: We focus on how to improve health outcomes by advancing systematic approaches to clinical decision-making and policy formation in health care using information engineering methodology (IEM), especially electrical clinical guidelines and encoded knowledge.
(2) Data Mining & Knowledge Discovery from Databases: It is necessary to collate heterogeneous information, such as the clinical indications for a drug, drug side effects, pharmacokinetics, metabolic pathways, and drug response genes for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). These data are distributed and managed in various clinical databases. We are studying ways to integrate distributed biomedical data and knowledge mining with virtualized database technologies, such as auto-indexing and technical term identification algorithms.
(3) Computer Graphics & Virtual Reality (VR) for Medical Science: Our research has three goals: (1) to improve the living conditions of in-patients with limited physical activity by providing virtual experiences; (2) to develop new diagnostic methods using medical imaging; and (3) to develop a surgical edutainment and preoperative surgical planning support system in virtual space. The advantages of simulating surgical procedures using VR techniques include: (1) practicing the surgical procedure and image-based training; (2) planning the surgical procedure for individual patients preoperatively using VR images modeled from the patient’s preoperative computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MR) images, in collaboration with the Department of Neurosurgery; (3) allowing supervisors to evaluate a procedure objectively; and (4) helping patients and their families to better understand the surgical procedure before and after the operation.
(4) Social Information Engineering for Public Health (Public Health Informatics): Our laboratory researches new tools and methodologies for applying information and computer science and technology to public health practice, research, and learning. At present, we are studying differences in the computerization of public health in the US and Japan.