November 13, 2015

Dr. Morris Collen’s last book on medical informatics

The last published work of Morris F. Collen, MD, one of Kaiser Permanente’s original founding physicians, was published almost exactly a year after his death at age 100.

The last published work of Morris F. Collen, MD, one of Kaiser Permanente’s original founding physicians, was published almost exactly a year after his death at age 100. Dr. Collen — Morrie, as he was affectionately known to many of us — worked on the book virtually until the day he died on Sept. 27, 2014.

This second edition of A History of Medical Informatics in the United States, available in hardback and eBook was not only a labor of Dr. Collen's love for the field — is also a comprehensive updating of his original work, first published in 1995.

The Permanente Medical Group, which supported the book’s publication, and the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research, honored Collen’s life and the colleagues who helped to complete this book during the American Medical Informatics Association symposium at the San Francisco Hilton Union Square this November 15.

On his 100th birthday, November 12, 2013, Collen reflected on the amazing changes in health care during his lifetime.

"Now everybody has a personal health record ... The technology has kept advancing. Our first computer took up a whole room. Now your smartphone has got everything that we had on the IBM 1440 ... You can go and pull up your Kaiser record! It’s fantastic! I can hardly believe it."

And he was a key figure in that advancement...

Book cover, Morris Collen's second edition of The History of Medical Informatics in the United States, 2015

Collen, Morris F., and Ball, Marion J. 2015. The History of Medical Informatics in the United States. Springer Verlag.

This final edition offered a forum for health care professionals to laud Dr. Collen’s notable achievements in two forewords and a preface. These excerpts attest to the impact of Dr. Collen’s work.

Foreword by Charles Safran, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and recipient of the 2014 Morris F. Collen Award:

"How often does a person envision a new medical discipline and then live to see this vision come into reality? He not only practiced his discipline, he established professional associations to promote it, and he mentored generations of practitioners. As a result of his pioneering efforts, we now have a field of clinical informatics. Information and communication technology is now used to improve health and healthcare in our hospitals, our clinicians' offices, our places of work, our schools, and our homes. Physicians and nurses now train in clinical informatics, and physicians can be board-certified in what has become a new subspecialty."

Foreword by Tracy Lieu, MD, director of the Division of Research at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland, Calif., and Robert Pearl, MD, executive director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group:

"Dr. Collen developed his groundbreaking contributions to medical informatics amid the fertile environment of Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation's first and most renowned integrated healthcare systems. As one of the founding partners of The Permanente Medical Group, now the largest medical group in the U.S., Morrie championed the principle that physicians should manage healthcare for both individual patients and large populations. He and the organization's other founders weathered controversy during the 1940s and 1950s for their beliefs. Today, the concepts of prepayment for services, comprehensive electronic medical records, and an emphasis on preventive care have been widely embraced throughout the country.

"This book reflects Morrie's visionary leadership as well as the dedication of his many colleagues, especially his beloved editor, Marion Ball, EdD. At a time when the most advanced computers had less power than a watch today, he saw what was possible and the ultimate potential for big data to revolutionize medical care. In sharing ways we can harness information to take better care of patients in real-world settings, this work stands as a beacon on the path to better healthcare for modern society."

Preface by Marion J. Ball, EdD, and editor of this edition:

"As he revised his History, Morrie restructured the book... reflecting the transformation medical informatics had undergone in the years since 1990. This new History provides an unrivaled repository of the literature — much of it in hard-to-locate proceedings and reports from professional and industry groups — that guided informatics as it matured. Yet it is much more than a repository. It sets forth Morrie's last assessments of the field he pioneered and cultivated, and it is enriched by the contributions of his colleagues who reviewed his chapters and helped bring this volume to completion. Always collegial, Morrie himself would welcome these new perspectives on the work that engaged him so completely up to the end of his life.

"To all those who look to the evolving field of informatics for tools and approaches to providing healthcare that is efficient, effective, evidence-based, and of the highest quality possible, this is Morrie's gift."

Dr. Collen, we thank you for your gifts.

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