The Arden Syntax standard for clinical decision support: experiences and directions

J Biomed Inform. 2012 Aug;45(4):711-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2012.02.001. Epub 2012 Feb 10.


Arden Syntax is a widely recognized standard for representing clinical and scientific knowledge in an executable format. It has a history that reaches back until 1989 and is currently maintained by the Health Level 7 (HL7) organization. We created a production-ready development environment, compiler, rule engine and application server for Arden Syntax. Over the course of several years, we have applied this Arden - Syntax - based CDS system in a wide variety of clinical problem domains, such as hepatitis serology interpretation, monitoring of nosocomial infections or the prediction of metastatic events in melanoma patients. We found the Arden Syntax standard to be very suitable for the practical implementation of CDS systems. Among the advantages of Arden Syntax are its status as an actively developed HL7 standard, the readability of the syntax, and various syntactic features such as flexible list handling. A major challenge we encountered was the technical integration of our CDS systems in existing, heterogeneous health information systems. To address this issue, we are currently working on incorporating the HL7 standard GELLO, which provides a standardized interface and query language for accessing data in health information systems. We hope that these planned extensions of the Arden Syntax might eventually help in realizing the vision of a global, interoperable and shared library of clinical decision support knowledge.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Artificial Intelligence*
  • Clinical Coding
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Humans
  • Linguistics*
  • Male