Supporting Medical Mathematics with Scriptable XML: The FORMOSA Language
Johannes W. Dietrich, Matthias F. Holzer, Martin R.
In the past decades mathematical methods have gained a more and more important role for both theoretical and clinical medicine. Nevertheless, in the clinical setting they are only rarely applied, as the required equations and algorithms are not easily accessible.
To support the clinical implementation of even advanced numeric methods we began to develop a new application with about 250 relevant equations based on experiences with a web-based information resource (Munich Formulary of Medical Sciences). Unlike the old system the new program should be made available in three forms: As a small stand-alone application on common computing platforms, as an Internet site for standard browsers and as a printed book. Therefore the data format should exhibit a structure that can be efficiently rendered even on older machines and allows for easy conversion to markup languages like HTML or WML as well as to imaging standards like PostScript or PDF.
Based on these requirements, the decision was made for a language system (FORMOSA) composed of an XML application (fML) and a frugal scripting language (fScript) for the execution of calculations.
The first version of the application was developed in Pascal for Mac OS computers. The parsing engine proved to be very fast and compact (< 50 KB) and therefore seems to be usable even on older machines as they are still in use in hospitals and at general practitioners.
As the XML structure is optimized for the contents the documents are very small, too (less than 50% of a comparable HTML file).
Currently the application is being ported to other operating systems (Windows and Linux with Delphi/Kylix). A further step will include a web service offering the contents in XML or HTML via automatical conversion, depending on the capabilities of the respective browser.
Cross-Platform Development, Medical Mathematics, Parsing, XML