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History of Homoeopathic Computer Programs
The computerization of our homoeopathic literature represents one of the most significant advances of our profession in the 20th century. “I find my homoeopathic software invaluable in daily clinical practice, in the continual self-education so necessary in our profession, and in preparing materials for teaching homoeopathy” (Taylor, 2002).
According to Taylor (2002), several computerized repertory and materia medica packages have been developed over the past 20 years. The three most widely used by professional homoeopaths are Cara Pro from Miccant; Pro Version from Mac Repertory Reference Works from Kent Homoeopathic Associates; and Radar® and Encyclopedia Homoeopathica® from Archibel.
The computer programs used by homoeopaths are able to analyze a voluminous mass of materia medica and are a great help in sorting out the similarities and differences among families and within families. These new ideas about kingdoms and families have revolutionized the homoeopathic practice (Ulman and Ullman, 2002).
It is important to state that none of these programs "finds the remedy" for a case; the tasks of case taking, the perception and organization of a totality of characterizing symptoms, the choice of reportorial rubrics to represent this totality of symptoms, the differential consideration of the leading remedies and the ultimate choice of a simillimum remain tasks for the carefully observant practitioner (Taylor, 2002).
Taylor (2002) in his review of existing computer programs stated that each program represents a significant contribution to the homoeopathic community, however each does have its own set of strengths and weaknesses.
Comparison of popular Computer Programs
Repertory programs in Cara Pro® include the Synthesis and Kent repertories. It also includes the complete works of Phatak, Boericke, Boenninghausen, Clarke, Murphy, Julian and Allen. A user has the option of restricting their repertorization according to plant, mineral or animal family. The selection of homoeopathic books found in Cara Pro® is far more extensive than the Keynotes and confirmatory materia medica in Mac Repertory and Radar®. The collections of materia medica found in Reference Works® and Encyclopaedia Homoeopathica® compensate for any shortcomings in MacRepertory® and Radar®. However it seems that the plant and animal family groupings are in need of some work.
The procedures used to perform a Family analysis in Cara® are similar to that found in the pie-graph Families module of Radar® and Mac Repertory (Taylor, 2002).
Mundy believes Cara® to be an excellent program, he has a particular affinity to the word search function as it assists with finding rubrics that he has difficulty in remembering (Miccant, 2005).
MacRepertory® has the Complete Repertory of van Zandvoort, Murphy’s repertory and a substantial collection of historical repertories. A typical repertorization may be restricted to a mineral, plant or animal kingdom by using visible icons in the window. A particular repertorization can also be restricted to a given family by the use of simple drop down menus. This tool allows the user to see how an individual family fares in a repertorization. Repertorization can also be restricted to a specific miasm, plants, chemicals, Vega boxes, Five element correlations and
even “Family” groups.
The analysis of families found in MacRepertory® is similar to that found in Cara® and Radar®. It begins with a pie graph of the divisions found within a major family group. This graph is dependant on how many remedies of each family come up on the analysis of a repertorization. This means that a huge family of remedies generally will score well in an analysis irrespective of whether the family covers the case well or not. Kent’s Homoeopathic Associates’ materia medica program and Reference Works® can produce rubrics by doing word searches. These
rubrics can then be imported to MacRepertory® and used in an analysis. The one disadvantage of this feature is that searches cannot be edited, so a search for “fear of dogs” may also include “has no fear of dogs”.
MacRepertory® has integrated keynote and confirmatory materia medica which can be opened to any remedy selected in an analysis by simply dragging the remedy to a keynote icon (Taylor, 2002).
Regarding MacRepertory® and Reference Works®, Lilley is of the opinion that they are indispensable in preparation of seminars and case presentations. In his opinion “Reference works is the richest mine of information,” Morrison says that these programs have an element of maturity, as it combines state-of-the-art computer programming with a deep understanding of the needs and inner workings of homoeopathy (Kent Homoeopathic Associates, 2009). RADAR® In comparison to Cara® and MacRepertory®, Radar® has the most complete collection of repertories. It contains Boenninghausen’s Repertory of the Antipsoric Remedies, his Therapeutic Pocketbook, the Boger-Boenninghausen’s Repertory, Murphy’s Repertory, Kent’s Repertory,
The Complete Repertory and Synthesis.
A unique feature of Radar® is the concept search. Concept files can be accessed directly from rubrics. For example a rubric, Mind, counting continually - will have next to it a concepts icon indicated by a light bulb, clicking this icon will bring up the concepts file-Radar® Concepts- Psychological disorders- obsessive compulsive neurosis.
Other concept files incorporated are Fonseca’s Semiological Guide, Mateu’s First Aid, Radar® Acute diseases, Servais’ themes and Zulians Index.
Another unique feature is the Vithoulkas Expert system and the Herscu module. The Full Synthesis 8.0 or later has the option of having multiple views of the repertory. These versions have additions from modern provings and some clinical experience that some practitioners may find questionable. A user is able to restrict repertory entries to those that can be judged more classically. This then eliminates material which is of a more experimental nature. The user has the option of creating and saving their own custom views by selecting one from a
stock view or using the view-editor function. Radar® has an extensive Families Repertory which acts as a database for analysis restrictions. Useful features of the Families Repertory are locating, searching and extractions. Repertorizations may be restricted to families by selecting a desired Family from a menu. Family groupings include Plant and animal Families, the Periodic Table, Bowel nosodes, Miasms, the Five elements and more. In addition there is also an extensive list of remedy relations, including remedies that follow a given remedy well and complementary remedies (Taylor, 2002).
De Schepper has recommended Radar® to every practitioner who wants to have the best results in their practice. He has even equated Radar® to Aphorism 2 of the 6th edition of the Organon as,
“the highest ideal of a homoeopathic computer program is the rapidly generated, intelligent, easy to use and reliable retrieval of information, applied by the skillful practitioner for the welfare of the sick.”
Vithoulkas who contributed to Radar®, the Vithoulkas Expert System, said that this is his greatest contribution to homoeopathy and he has placed his greatest efforts in providing the most useful, reliable and worthwhile knowledge.
These three software packages are all extremely valuable contributions to the homoeopathic community. The advantages of these programs over the use of printed material for case analysis, materia medica study and teaching is immeasurable. These computer programs take over the laborious repertorization and other insignificant tasks and hence allows rapid accurate utilisation of our resources. However none of these packages can substitute for careful observation and reasoning of the practitioner (Taylor, 2002).
The major strengths of each program according to Taylor (2002), was that Cara®, being the least complex program, performs the basic tasks of repertorization and gives adequate literature access.
MacRepertory® has excellent graphics presentation and leads in the implementation of Family analysis. The strong features of Radar® was the ability to access alternative views of the Synthesis Repertory and integrate that with Encylopaedia Homoeopathica.
Radar® also excels in the speed of performing tasks like finding rubrics, performing concept searches, simple searches and cross-referencing between related rubrics.
Bezemek (2007), the developer of Mercurius® homoeopathic software has stated that the advent of homoeopathic software has given practitioners the ability to locate matching rubrics quickly and easily. Mercurius® allows the homoeopath to do an evaluation in a few minutes, this provides sufficient time to study the case and go through materia medica for confirmation. If a practitioner would do the same manually without any homoeopathic software, it would generally take several hours. Experienced homoeopaths who do not use any homoeopathic software prescribe on keynotes or key symptoms for each remedy. But imagine this - even if practitioners knew a hundred keynotes for a hundred remedies, they are still hopelessly far to encompass tens of thousands of symptoms available in modern repertories.
Bezemek (2007) is of the opinion that if a homoeopathic practitioner does not use any homoeopathic software, even those practitioners with a phenomenal memory, they are neglecting a large part of homoeopathic knowledge. With widespread use of the many suppressing drugs that the pharmaceutical industry produces, the cure is more difficult to achieve than it was a hundred years ago. It is therefore even more essential to base our prescriptions on solid foundations and without the limitations of oversimplification required by non-computerized approach. The researcher for the purposes
of this work preferred to use Radar® due to the program being easily available to him and his familiarity with its functions.
Repertories have helped conscientious homeopaths in their struggle for the right remedy as long as homeopathy has existed. Hahnemann himself made some first steps in structuring his information into some kind of repertory. However, it was his immediate disciple and collaborator of the first hour, Clemens von Boenninghausen, who can be credited with creating the first usable Repertory in 1832. Different authors expanded on previous versions of this repertory, e.g. Allen, Jahr, von Lippe, etc. Some created completely new structures as did Gentry and Knerr.
It was Kent who published different parts of a Repertory from 1897 to 1899 with a structure and a hierarchical logic that would stand the test of time. Kent released different versions of his repertory himself (the 2nd edition in 1908, and a 3rd manuscript edition at his death in 1916, only printed in 1924). Later editions never reached the quality of Kent's manuscript of the 3rd edition and can be considered as only slightly changed and updated versions edited by his followers and his wife Clara-Louise.
Nevertheless, for a few decades no other Repertory succeeded taking up the challenge of progress. In 1973 Barthel and Klunker started the publication of a first version of their "Synthetic Repertory", adding information from 14, later from 16 authors to the 5 main chapters of the Repertory (mind, generals, sleep and dreams, male and female sexuality). Although Barthel and Klunker did not expand their work to more authors or to more chapters, their Repertory was considered a new reference by many. Other articles report in detail on the evolution of Repertories, so here we turn our attention to Synthesis, the newcomer.
History of Synthesis
Synthesis is the Repertory linked to the RADAR project. It is based on the Sixth American Edition of Kent's Repertory, and contains all its rubrics and remedies. Since 1987, Synthesis has been used
as a database for the RADAR program in the daily practice of leading homeopaths. It has been commented upon and thereby improved over and over again, which gives it an outstanding label of quality. Indeed, not only additions of an increasing number of authors have been added to all chapters, but also corrections of the existing data, including Kent's work, have been integrated. This book didn't just fall out of the air; it is a fruit that has been maturing for a long time.
Version 2 was released in April 1988 and occupied 10.5 Mb of hard disk space. Synthesis 3 followed in September 1990 with 11.5 Mb: it contained mostly corrections on the previous version and offered 136,000 additions from about 130 authors compared to Kent's original Repertory.
This chart shows how the addition of information in successive versions of Synthesis has been stepwise. The lower (dark blue) part of each column indicates the number of new additions compared to
the previous version. In December 1992 the fourth version of Synthesis was released and is now being used by nearly 2000 RADAR users over the world as a software program. It contains 178,000 additions from about 200 authors. Many additions are confirmed by different authors and thereby become more reliable.
We believe that the best policy is to increase the number of additions stepwise. There has been a 24% increase in new information from Synthesis 2 to Synthesis 3. There is approximately a 30% increase
in new information from Synthesis 3 to Synthesis 4. Every edition of Synthesis has been used in hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide. When these steps are taken too quickly, the expanded rubrics bring out differences in too many cases that ultimately lead to confusion. Hastily introduced new information might be incorrect or irrelevant.
In other Repertories, new rubrics are often positioned illogically. A stepwise increase in information is the only means to avoid chaos. Quality increases faster than quantity. At each step the quality has been improved, especially in the creation of version 5. Compared to version 4, only a few thousand additions have been added, because we focused on increasing the quality, which is the main topic of
The maroon line, indicating the increase of quality, shows that there was a real breakthrough at the creation of version 5. Although errors had been corrected on each subsequent version of Synthesis, the decision to print Synthesis caused some extra reflections. If this Repertory was to be printed, it should be done only if we could offer a dramatic increase in the quality of the Repertory, its structure, its language and the consistency of its information. We have worked towards this achievement since the beginning of 1992.
In July 1992 the homeopathic part of the job for Synthesis 4 was finished and we focused exclusively on quality. Although it is more difficult to indicate this with objective numbers, we estimate, based on various criteria, (such as number of corrections made, symptoms edited, words modified, synonyms and cross-references added, etc.) that the increase in quality can be graphically represented by the graph on the previous page. This has been a worldwide project.
All aspects of Synthesis will be discussed under the different headings following this introduction. One aspect, however, still needs special attention: our wish that this Repertory stands for worldwide collaboration between homeopaths. Since the beginning, non-RADAR users have been collaborating with us. We expect that the printed version will further increase this input. Our computer technology is only the means to create this unique totality of information. With the printing of the book, it will be available to even more colleagues. The other feature that is making Synthesis a unique meeting point is the existence of editions in national languages. Homeopathy, despite its German origins, has become very dependent upon the English language.
For the level of communication and understanding needed in our profession, it appears that still very many homeopaths have major difficulties with this world language. Consequently, for three years we have been preparing to present Synthesis in different national languages. At this moment the German edition, containing the same vast amount of corrections and additions, is a fact. Translations into Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese are completed and will soon be released. The number of homeopaths who will be able to use Synthesis will thereby be multiplied several times. We trust that the feedback will increase accordingly. We are ready to process all remarks made in different languages centrally and all editions will be updated with the sum of all new corrections and additions.