Health IT has a fundamentally different heritage from other IT systems. It will help you understand the products you’re working with if you know the aspects of this separate linage, so we’ll explore them here.
The dawn of modern information systems is arguably the invention of the C programming language and Unix by Dennis Ritchie and others at Bell Labs. The C programming language and the Unix operating system gave birth to an industry that now includes Microsoft Windows, the Apple iPhone, and most of the other tech goodies that we know and love. Almost all software engineers are used to working on C-style programming languages. Even the physical layout of code (usually whitespace invariant) in modern programming languages is based on C.
Important attempts to computerize healthcare date back slightly earlier in the same era, which explains one of the central differences in health IT: MUMPS.
MUMPS stands for Massachusetts General Hospital Utility Multi-Programming System. It is typical nerd humor that a programming language sponsored by a hospital was named after a disease. Unlike C and Unix, there was no strong separation between the programming language of MUMPS and the operating system of MUMPS. In fact, originally, MUMPS was a programming language, database, and operating system all rolled into one. MUMPS was built by Dr. Octo Barnette in his animal lab and became the foundation of a hospital ...