Quietly over the past 25 years, the field of medical informatics has been emerging as a distinct disciplinary area that provides the scientific and theoretical basis for current and future practical applications of computers and automated information systems in medicine.1
Computer-mediated access to the biomedical scientific literature has become widespread and reasonably advanced. MEDLINE bibliographical searches are now done in seconds, 24 hours per day. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) alone provided 3 million responses last year, and commercial data base vendors using NLM tapes provided a like number.
A recent survey of NLM MEDLINE queries showed that about half were associated directly with patient care problems. For this reason and because of the recent great increase in the number of physicians who own and use personal computers, NLM recently made available a new search tool for medical professional users: a computer (diskette) search system that permits direct