1970 — Turin, 1970: birth of the “Società Italiana di Informatica Medica”

The “Società Italiana di Informatica Medica” was born in 1970 with the support of the journalistic group Minerva Medica. At that time the society already had two conferences to its credit: the first one in October 1968 at S. Giovanni hospital within the context of the “Giornate Mediche Internazionali” (International Medical Days) and the second one in December 1970 at “Fondazione Agnelli” within the framework of the “Riunioni di Informatica” (Information Science Meetings). Soon the society was able to make use of an official organ, the journal “Minerva Medica”, which was going to publish the society’s studies and papers every six months.

The purpose of the society, besides the scientific one, is that of promoting the use of information technology in the field of medicine and, as a consequence, “to stregthen the powers of modern medicine in terms of quantity and quality”. The society aims at working in various fields. First of all, in the field of technology, stimulated by the application of information science, a broad integration between the single branches of medicine and the world of industry with its state-of-the-art technology. Secondly in the field of sociology, which shows the inadequacy of the hospital facilities of that time, a lack of science of organization and, due to a lack of technology, the impossibility of conducting one of the most fascinating human and economic tasks in medicine, the prevention of diseases. Finally, the society aims at working in the human field: thanks to a cold and impersonal machine such as the computer, the doctor can regain personal contact with the single patient. Professor Pier Federico Angelino, president of the society, wrote at that time: “With the facilities now available, doctors cannot sustain the advent of a social medicine. A union between man and computer is therefore needed”. In 1971, a year after its foundation, the society organized its second conference of medical information science on the following topics: “Doctors and multiphase health control”, “Citizens faced with multiphase health control”. However, the main issue was the role computers had to play in modern hospitals, a role which was thought as consisting in three main points: the organization of the doctor’s work during the diagnostic-therapeutic cycle; the collection of data from various sources; the introduction of the computer (off-line and on-line) with various structures and kinds of equipment.  The “Società di Informatica Medica” also had other purposes, as stated in its statute: “boosting scientific research and projects in the field of medical information science; promoting and following legislative activities with regard to the employment of information science and automation in medicine; supporting the participation of Italy in international conferences on medical information science; organizing national conferences every two years together with academic activities”. The society’s statute provides for various types of professionals among its members and possible contributing members and it also accepts students. In the following years the society took part in many international conferences: the “Centro Cornaglia” collected their proceedings and still keeps them in its library. The society has always had  its offices at Minerva Medica in Turin: in 1985, the journal even carried the news of a replacement in the board of governors after Professor Angelino’s death . This is another important page in the history of the Turin medical school: a challenge which today may seem to us quite banal, since we are accustomed to the use of information technology. For the people who lived those years as protagonists, however, all this seemed to have something miraculous: analogue electronics, the traditional one, was turning into digital, a bridge which connected it to the future because it made it possible to communicate with the computer. Interfaces for the transformation of signals were used; a telephone cable and a modem were employed for the transmission of converted data and in this way an electrocardiogram could be executed in Turin and transmitted to a hospital in Mannheim, where it was read. Internet was born. It was 1971. (Dario Bracco)

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