Fortunately, my career has included a range of informatics-related experiences. Over the years, I have done everything from machine learning research to running a full-time consulting business. My fellowship only prepared me for some of this–the rest I had to learn on the fly. When faced with the challenge of learning something completely new, my strategy has always been: 1) find a good book and read it cover to cover, and 2) find someone with expertise in what I am trying to learn and ask as many questions as they will put up with. Happily, the Internet has made both easy. In this post, I have decided to share the books that have been most helpful to me over the years. (When possible, links are to the current editions of each book.)
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
When I arrived at UAB in 1994, I decided to pursue research that focused on using the immune system as a model for pattern recognition. Having worked with Prolog during my fellowship, I was comfortable with the literature on medical AI. However, when I started this project, I wanted a better background in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Artificial Intelligence: a Modern Approach. S Russell, P Norvig. This is hands-down the best introduction to AI available—clear, well organized and comprehensive.
Genetic Algorithms in Search, Optimization and Machine Learning. D Goldberg. Written by one of the pioneers in the field, this is a step-by-step guide to genetic algorithms featuring numerous code examples. I wish more computer science books were this well written.
Biostatistics and Research Methods
Research articles in biomedical informatics journals report their results using biostatistics. Although, the curricula for all healthcare professions include courses in biostatistics, taking a course in school and being able to apply that knowledge to problems in the real world years later are two different things.
Basic and Clinical Biostatistics. B Dawson, R Trapp. Great for a refresher, or self-directed learning, this text has plenty of cases and solved problems. (I have the third edition.)
Biostatistics: the Bare Essentials. G Norman, D Streiner. This is not so much a book for learning biostatistics as it is for understanding the proper use of statistical tests. For a biostatistics book, it is far more interesting reading than one would expect. The C.R.A.P. detectors are particularly useful.
Evaluation Methods in Medical Informatics. C Friedman, J Wyatt. The best reference available on informatics research methods.
If one spends enough time doing informatics, eventually he/she bumps into computer science. Like medicine, computer science has many areas of specialization, and learning one’s way around can be tricky.
Great Ideas in Computer Science: A Gentle Introduction. A Biermann. This is a non-threatening, project-oriented approach to the main areas of computer science. No prior background in computer science is required to do the projects. Highly recommended for curious geeks.
Introduction to Algorithms. T Corman, C Leiserson, R Rivest, C Stein. I bought a copy of this book because I grew tired of not being able to understand references to algorithms in journals. I have found it to be an exceptional reference tool.
Technology Management & Software Development
The 1917 Clinic EHR project lasted a little more than four years. During that time, computer support for the clinic’s 66+ employees was brought in-house, and I had to add managing a small IT shop to my EHR project responsibilities. As the informatics group’s duties expanded and EHR development progressed, I was compelled to increase my knowledge of software project management, security, and other IT-related topics.
Modern Systems Analysis and Design. J Hoffer, J George, J Valacich. This is a great textbook with plenty of case studies, examples, and problems. The techniques described in this book were used to complete the requirements analysis for the 1917 Clinic EHR and plan its deployment.
UML: A Beginners Guide. JRoff. An easy to follow tutorial on UML modeling that anyone can understand. Group discussions of software behavior and design would have been much less productive without UML. This guide was required reading for new informatics division employees.
Software Project Management Toolkit for Dummies. G Mandanis. I used this book almost daily for four years. It covers the day-to-day issues of managing a software project. I never used the software on the CD, but I used the techniques constantly. Even though it is now 11 years old, it is still useful.
Hack Proofing Your Wireless Network. C Barnes, T Bautts, D Lloyd, E Ouellet, J Posluns, D Zendezian, N O’Farrell. The 1917 Clinic EHR was deployed using both desktops computers and Fujitsu tablets. Paranoia over someone hacking the network led me to read this book so that I could understand all the recommendations made by my staff. It is from 2002; today this might be a better choice.
IT Disaster Recovery Planning for Dummies. P. Gregory. Since this book was published in 2007, I did not have it during my time at UAB. I wish I had. It is a dummies book, but it is quite detailed and very useful when developing policies and procedures for data protection.
In anticipation of the 1917 EHR project, I completed a certificate in database development at a local university. The text listed below was the course text for the certificate program. It is easy-to-read and takes the reader from basic concepts to advanced concerns. Now in its 10th edition, it remains a great practical introduction to database management. Modern Database Management. F MacFadden, J Hoffer, M Prescott
Running a consulting business is very different from being a full-time academic. As an academic, I rarely had any reason to interact with any of the C-level executives. When I began to do consulting, that quickly changed and I discovered that I needed a better understanding of the non-clinical side of healthcare.
Financial Management of Healthcare Organizations: An Introduction to Fundamental Tools, Concepts, and Applications. W Zelman, M McCue, A Milliken, N Glick. Unless you are a chief financial officer, everything you need to know about healthcare finance is in this book.
Healthcare Administration: Managing Organized Delivery Systems. L Wolper. This is a good, comprehensive introduction to the way healthcare works. I always keep my copy handy.
A Practical Guide to Needs Assessment. K Gupta, C Sleazier, D Russ-Eft. Needs assessment is a fundamental component of my consulting process. This book is the best I have been able to find on the topic.
I quickly discovered that running a business required more than simply having clients. These books helped me get up-to-speed on topics in accounting, marketing and other key business areas. They also made discussions with my attorney and accountant much more fruitful.
Persuasive Business Proposals: Writing to Win More Customers, Clients, and Contracts. T Sant. Clients do not always just fall into your lap. For those occasions when they do not, this book offers step-by-step advice on putting your best foot forward.
Practical Guide to S Corporations. M Schlesinger. Everything you ever wanted to know about subchapter S corporations, but were afraid to ask.
The Ten Day MBA: A Step-By-Step Guide to Mastering the Skills Taught in America’s Top Business Schools. S Silbiger. I bought this book on a lark. It has actually turned out to be a useful reference. Basic concepts related to marketing, finance, accounting and other business topics are explained with examples. If nothing else, it is a good introduction to business terminology.
This is my list of go-to books. Each has helped in my professional development. If you have suggestions for books or other resources that you find particularly helpful, please send them to me (with a brief annotation). I will post them in the soon-to-be “Resources” section of EHR Science.