GALEN is the name given to a technology that is designed to represent clinical information in a new way, and is intended to "put the clinical into the clinical workstation". GALEN produces a computer-based multilingual coding system for medicine, using a qualitatively different approach from those used in the past.
GALEN is attempting to meet five challenges:
- To reconcile diversity of needs for terminology with the requirement to share information
- To avoid exponentially rising costs for harmonisation of variants
- To facilitate clinical applications
- To bridge the gap between the detail required for patient care and the abstractions required for statistical, management, and research purposes.
- To provide multilingual systems which preserve the underlying meaning and representation
To do so, GALEN advocates five fundamental paradigm shifts to resolve the fundamental dilemmas that face traditional terminologies, coding, and classification systems.
In the user interface, to shift from selecting codes to describing conditions.
Interfaces using GALEN technology allow a central concept to be described through simple forms. If required, a precise code for reporting can be generated later automatically.
In the structure, to shift from enumerated codes to composite descriptions.
Correspondingly, GALEN handles terminology internally analogously to a dictionary and a grammar so that indefinitely many descriptions can be composed from a manageable number of base concepts. Traditional coding systems are more like a phrase book; each sentence must be listed separately. No one would think of trying to list all the possible sentences in any natural language in a phrase book; listing all possible disease or procedure terms in a coding system is equally fruitless.
In establishing standards, to shift from a standard coding system to a standard reference model.
Existing coding and classifications differ because they are used for different purposes. Finding a single fixed set of codes for all diseases, procedures, etc. which will serve all purposes is a chimera. The GALEN Common Reference Model provides a common means of representing coding and classification systems so that they can be inter-related - a common dictionary and grammar. The projects slogan is coherence without uniformity.
In delivery, to shift from static coding systems as data to dynamic terminology services as software.
Terminology is now at the heart of clinical software. GALEN originated the idea of a terminology server and is participating actively in the CorbaMed effort at standardising the software interface.
In presentation, to shift from translations of monolingual terminologies to multilingual terminologies.
GALEN separates the underlying concepts from the surface natural language that presents them.
OpenGALEN is a not-for-profit organisation that has been formed to enable the widest possible exploitation of some of the results of the GALEN Programme.