Prof David Ingram's new book Health Care in the Information Society

Dear openEHR colleagues,

Exciting news: the father of health informatics education and research in the UK, Prof emeritus David Ingram, has written a book on the history of computing in the healthcare domain, called Health Care in the Information Society. In what seems a moment of synergy too good to be true, I am posting this on the 20th birthday of openEHR (born 13 Mar 2003).

David: the book draws together history of people, ideas, and events, from times before the computer and connecting with the foundations and development of computer science and information technology. It surveys the often-anarchic transition of life science, medicine, and health care into the past seventy-five years of the Information Age - an era that my life and career have exactly mapped against. It provides an optimistically forward-looking personal perspective of what might come next as the current turmoil calms, as it surely will! It draws substantially on personal experience of the creation and sustaining of openEHR and other missions and endeavours, such as that of OpenEyes. It reflects on where we have reached, together, today, and of how what has been achieved, collaboratively, can help support the reinvention of health care for tomorrow. People now talk of reinvention as much as reform.

I have seen drafts of part of the book - which has taken 3 years to write - it is fascinating, eclectic, and darkly humorous. Anyone who reads history or philosophy of science will find David’s publication more than a match for the well known authors of those genres. But more than that, it provides an over-arching view and clarity on our applied domain which for many of us is defined by its grand challenges and seeming intractability. The brief TOC is shown below.

Not all of you may know David, but I do. I got started in health informatics due to David inviting me onto the GEHR research programme in 1994 (EC framework 3), and have watched as he built a world-beating educational health informatics program at UCL (CHIME), while helping to create and nurture efforts such as openEHR on which I have worked for 20 years. He even thought of the name - I remember him coming into UCL in North London one day saying “guess what I thought of in the shower this morning!”. I keep in mind his many pearls of wisdom - for example his frequent exhortation to rely on ‘implementation, implementation, implementation’ rather than hype and sophistry - and they have shaped how many of us have worked over the years.

David has chosen to go the open access route, on the basis that monographs published this way have been shown to reach vastly wider and much more geographically spread audiences than the traditional route for specialist publications. The book has been accepted for publication by the platinum-rated Open Access publisher, OpenBookPublishers (OBP) in Cambridge, and will be free to download by anyone, anywhere. It will have print on demand and e-book versions as well.

This does mean that David as author has to cover the OBP costs - open-Access authors neither receive nor seek remuneration, for or from their works.

If you would like to see the publication of what will undoubtedly be a definitive work on computing in medicine, please consider supporting the book here on the OpenBookPublishers crowdfunding site. I already have and I hope you will too.

Thank you David for taking the time to document our time!

  • thomas beale

(board member and specifications lead, openEHR International)

Health Care in the Information Society

Table of Contents


Part One: Adventure of Ideas

  1. Introduction—connecting for health

  2. Knowledge, Language, and Reason—from ancient times to the Information Age

  3. Observation and Measurement—from cubits to qubits

  4. Models and Simulations—the third arm of science

  5. Information and Engineering—the interface of science and society

Part Two: Anarchy of Transition

  1. Life and Information—co-evolving sciences

  2. Health Care and Information Technology—co-evolving services

Part Three: Programme for Reform

  1. Care Information as a Utility—what is needed and why?

    8½. Halfway Houses Towards the Care Information Utility—stories of openEHR and OpenEyes

  2. Creating and Sustaining the Care Information Utility—how, by whom, and where?

  3. Half and Whole—midway from Information Age to Information Society.


Many thanks for this Tom.

Allow me to (personally) put this announcement into a more frank context:

Professor David Ingram is one of the few people who made openEHR possible. I don’t intend to trivialise decades of effort from some names you surely heard, friends and respected mentors all, but I would not have great difficulty suggesting David is “the” pillar that carried openEHR for decades. (Read the book for the details)

So if you’re benefiting from openEHR in any shape or form, as in building openEHR based solutions, offering consultancy, training, singing the LinkedIn song (…just look at our success!!..) or simply using an openEHR based solution that helps you as a clinician or a patient, David made that possible.

Now he has written a book that will help you and many others like you even more. Please consider supporting it personally or institutionally.