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Morris Collen Dies

Morris Collen, an early medical informatician, has died, the New York Times reports. He was 100.

Collen, a physician, joined what would become Kaiser Permanente in the 1940s. He and his team realized that data they'd been collecting through multiphasic exams could be entered into a database, which they began populating using punch cards in the 1960s.

"They sorted out 200 questions into yes/no responses such as, 'Did you ever cough up blood?' We ran in all the yes responses through a card reader into the computer, and then, before the patient left, we printed out a summary report," Collen said in an oral history interview for the University of California, Berkeley, in 2005. "Then, we developed what are now called decision rules, so if they had albumin in the urine, the computer printed out a request, 'Come back with a morning urine specimen,' and all these decision rules were for the patient to do a secondary screening."

Kaiser Permanente now has what it says is one of the largest health research ventures in the US that is not at a university. And clinical informatics, a version of medical informatics, the Times adds, has recently become a board-certified specialty in the US

"[Collen] in some large part created the field of medical informatics. He was a mentor to my mentors," Harvard University's Charles Safran says.