CS 550 Medical Informatics: Introduction to Issues and Policy
Spring 2003 Syllabus
Brian M. O'Connell
Departments of Computer Science & Philosophy
Maria Sanford Room 205
This syllabus is subject to change. Please check in here often.
Last Update: 04/23/03

Click Here for Medical Informatics Resource Page


Class Presentations (password required):

Click Here for Class Presentations 1-3

Click Here for Class Presentation on HIPAA

Click Here for Class Presentation on Smart Cards and UID's

Click Here for Class Presentation on Medical Web Design and FTC Actions

Click Here for Class Presentation on Safety Critical Systems

Click Here for Class Presentation on Genomics


Course Description:
Computing is ubiquitous within the medical environment. This course will examine the dynamics of biomedical

computing from legal, ethical and social perspectives. Since these considerations cannot be undertaken without

a solid knowledge of the technologies and techniques at issue, the course will also provide the student with a

grounding in the fundamentals of scientific and professional practices, including the evolution and implementation

of architectures & networks, the design and theory of record-keeping systems, therapeutic devices, clinical

decision-making techniques, the digital laboratory and integrated health management systems.


Legal and ethical topics will include: privacy & confidentiality, risk & liability, professional responsibility,

legislative mandates and processes, computational genomics, intellectual property and economic issues.


Classes will be conducted in seminar format. Opportunities will be afforded to visit facilities involved in these

areas and to communicate with professionals working within the field. The successful completion of the class

will require the preparation of an original research paper. A portion of the course will be devoted to individual

advising and assistance in research. Students will be exposed to contemporary online and library-based information

resources. Tours of the UCONN Health Center and Law School libraries will be offered and use of these facilities

will be encouraged.


This course is appropriate for students in the computing, legal, bio-engineering and managerial disciplines as well

as for professionals who are involved in clinical or administrative aspects of computing within health care or research

environments. A knowledge of programming, network architecture and basic principles of A.I. are helpful, but not

absolutely required. Students without a computing background  may be required to consult additional, introductory

technical readings.

Course Texts:
1.  Online Articles
2.  Class Handouts and Slides
3.  Reserve Materials located in Computer Science Office

Course Evaluation:
1.  Section Quizzes [30%]
2.  Paper Preparation Research Assignments [20%]
3.  Course Research Paper [40%]
4.  Class Participation (including attendance) [10%]


Course Policies:

1.  Attendance is presumed. Three or more unexcused absences will result in loss of participation score.

2. Assignments must be submitted in analog form. No emails will be accepted.

3. Students must have Web access.

4. Students must have "unzipping" program to access downloads.

Week One:     Introduction
Overview: Inter-disciplinary and Professional Issues and Evolution
Library facilities & Logistics
Online Resources
Grading and Class Policies
Pick up syllabus & material

Week Two:    Introduction to Medical Networks
Introduction to Medical Network Design & Development
Emergence of Medical Informatics as a Discipline
Predominant Architectures and Practices

Warner, Medical Informatics: A Real Discipline?, JAMIA, 2: 207-214 (1995)

Week Three:     Privacy I - Theory & Environments
Professional Confidentiality
Medical-Legal Privacy Overview
The Patient Medical Record
Conventional Privacy Legislation

McLean, Chapter 4: Types of Privacy in McLean: Privacy and Its Invasion, pp. 47-60
Gellman, Prescribing Privacy: The Uncertain Role of the Physician in the Protection of Patient Privacy (1984), pp. 8-11
Hippocratic Oath

Warren & Brandeis, The Right to Privacy
Olmstead v. United States 277 U.S. 438 (1928)
HEW Code of Fair Information Practices (1973)
Privacy Act of 1974 (Public Law: 93-5795; USC 552a: 88 Stat. 1896)
FOIA (5 U.S.C. 552) section on non-disclosable data

Weeks Four thru Six:     Privacy II - Governmental Policies, Evolution & Conflicts

** 02/18/03 -- CCSU Library Seminar - Meet at 6:45 in the library. ** Postponed due to snow

** 02/26/03 -- UCONN Library Class - Meet at UCONN Medical School Academic Entrance by 7:00 **

     Click HERE for Directions to the Medical School in Farmington


Seminal Medical Privacy Jurisprudence
The Federal & State Regulatory Processes
Online Medical Research


Whalen v. Roe 429 U.S. 589 (1977)


All privacy cases covered in class are contained within Medical Informatics Resource Page

Epic Health Confidentiality Bibliography
General Accounting Office "Medical Records Privacy (February 25, 1999) (.pdf file) [Tentative]

UCONN Health Center Library Web Site

 ** Paper Topic Due in Class or by Email by week of 02/25**

Week Seven & Eight:   
Week Seven Topic:




Security & Privacy: An Introduction to HIPAA (.pdf file)

Week Nine:    Universal ID's and Smart Cards

Smart Cards: Scientific American 274, no. 8 (August 1996): 40-45
Szolovits & Kohane: Against Simple Universal Health-Care Identifiers (pdf file)
EPIC White Paper on Unique Health Identifier

Week Ten:    Vacation

Week Eleven:    Internet Issues
User-Critical Site Design
Electronic Mail

Federal, State & Private Enforcement
Best and Worst Practices


Murphy, Patient-centered E-mail: Developing the Right Policies (2000)

Mandl et al., Patient-Physican Communication (1998)

Kane et al., Guidelines for the Clinical Use of E-Mail (1998)

AMA Email Guidelines (Army Medical Report, 2000)

eHealth Code of Ethics (2000)


Spielberg, Online Without a Net: Physician-Patient Communication, 25 Am. J. L. and Med. (2000)
Kane, et al., Guidelines for the Clinical Use of Electronic Mail, JAMIA,  5: 104-111 (1998)


** Paper "Main Sources" Due in Class by 04/01 **

Week Twelve:     Risks
Contemporary Decision-Making Structures, Protocols, Algorithms and Theories
Software Engineering

Best Practices


Smith, Limits of Correctness in Computers, Report CSLI-85-36, Center for the Study of Language and Information,
Stanford University, California, October 1985
Leveson & Turner, An Investigation of the THERAC-25 Accidents, IEEE Computer 26(7) (1993)

Week Thirteen:     Physical Computing


Robotic Surgery & Treatment

Embedded Computing

Agency, Standards and Liability



Weeks Fourteen:     Genomics  - Theoretical & Legal Aspects
Elementary Scientific Background
Computational and Statistical Genomics
Current Protocols and Applications
Genomic Software & Technologies
Genome Database Management

Privacy Implications

Salon - Decoding the Genome
Boyle Chapter - Will be made available in Class, Tuesday, 3/29


** Paper's  Outline due in class by 4/22 **

Week Fifteen:     Autonomous, Decision-Support & "Expert" Systems
History of Artificial Intelligence in Medicine

Expert Systems in Medicine

Clinical Software Overview

Risks of Decision-Support Systems


Assignment: Will be made available in Class, Tuesday, 3/29
Snapper, Responsibility for Computer-Based Decisions in Health Care
Miller & Goodman, Ethical Challenges in the Use of Decision-Support Software in Clinical Practice

Week Sixteen:    Design Issues

Safety-Critical Design

Standards & Testing

Human Factors Considerations




Week Seventeen:     Presentations

All papers are due in person on final class tonight.