Problems of nomenclature and classification in medical expert systems

Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 9 (2) (1988)
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Abstract

Medical expert systems (MES) are knowledge-based computer programs that are designed for advising physicians on diagnostical and therapeutical decision-making. They use heuristic methods developed by Artificial Intelligence researchers in order to retrieve from large knowledge-bases information needed in the situation. Constructing the knowledge-base of a MES embraces the problem of explicating and fixing the conceptual, causal and epistemic relations between a lot of medical objects. There is a number of preconditions which any adequate representation of such knowledge must fulfil, among them the conditions of consistency, of completeness, of unequivocality, etc. Existing systems for classification and coding, like ICD and SNOMED, are not designed for the needs of constructing expert systems or, more generally, of knowledge processing and knowledge engineering. Their syntax is not sufficiently rich for expressing the more complex structures of (medical) knowledge. What is needed, is a language that can be used for expressing logical and descriptive relations between medical objects and facts, approximately at the level of the language of second order predicate logic. Simultaneously, it must be possible to process this language at the machine level. This can be achieved by using some dialects of the programming language LISP or, particularly, by using the programming language PROLOG. Thus, in order to achieve a suitable classification system, it is necessary to develop a system of medical data structures and predicates expressed in LISP or PROLOG.

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