Why Ontologies are Needed in Health Care Applications

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Joel Amoussou addressed the question recently of why ontologies are needed in health care applications. Amoussou writes, “at the practical level, ontologies can help us verify the soundness of statements in messages based on our conceptualization of the world. Information models in healthcare often take the form of an XML schema, a Schematron schema, or a relational database schema. One distinguishing characteristic of ontologies is that they are based on an Open World Assumption (OWA) which is based on the AAA slogan or Anyone can say Anything about Any topic. Statements that are not included in an ontology are considered unknown as opposed to false.”

He adds, “In contrast, information models of data structures such as XML messages and relational databases are based on a Closed World Assumption (CWA) which holds that any statement that is not known to the message or database to be true is false (this is also referred to as “negation as failure” or NF).”

Amoussou continues, “OWL2, a W3C Recommendation, is an expressive ontology language and provides reasoning and inferencing capabilities to software applications. Logical axioms specify restrictions through property domains and ranges. OWL2 also support negation and disjunction. OWL2 reasoning capabilites can be enhanced with a rule language such as the Semantic Web Rule Language (SWRL). Given the complexity and scale of medical knowledge today, the use of ontology-based reasoning will become essential in applications such as medical terminologies, clinical knowledge management for automated decision support, and even automatically verifying the accuracy of messages exchanged between healthcare applications.”

Read more here.

Image: Courtesy Flickr/ owensoft

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