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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hello CQL

So you want to learn CQL.  So do I, so I thought I'd probably write a book about it ;-)

Somewhere in the book will need to be the CQL Hello World program, which I'll repeat below for the uninitiated:

define Result: 'Hello World!'

CQL doesn't have assignment statements.  You define things and having defined them, you can later refer to them.  But that's it.  Values are never changed by the program.

That's an essential feature of declarative programming.

By being side effect free, CQL programs can be implemented by an executor in whatever order makes the most sense to optimize performance.  Another commonly used language that works this way is XSLT, which might explain why I like CQL. 

CQL has four primitive data types: Boolean, Integer, Decimal and String, along with the not quite primitive DateTime and Time types.  Boolean uses the traditional true and false values.
It also has complex data types including Quantity, Code, Concept, ValueSet and CodeSystem. 
Beyond that, everything else is either a complex class referencing an information model, or is defined in a Tuple.  And then there is null, which isn't a data type.

Strings are sequences of characters wrapped in single quotes.  Special characters are escaped using \ as in the C and Java language families with all the common escapes and Unicode.

Double quotes are reserved for named identifiers associated with complex things (Code, Concept, ValueSet, and CodeSystem).

Math is math.  Logic is three-valued.  Time is complicated, but less so in CQL than anything else.  CQL moves time from being a great big ball of timey-wimey stuff into linear progression that allows non-time lords to express logic within it.

One of the chapters will have to be about the history of CQL.  In "A theory of everything" written in 2013 I quickly listed some of that history.  Later history includes FHIR, QUICK, QICore, and some other bits and bobbles.  The meeting described in that post reads to me much like the begats in the Bible, and CQL may in fact be the messiah for CDS.  But right now it probably still has to spend its 40 days (or is it weeks, hopefully not months or years) in the wilderness.

Five years.  This is probably the second time in my life where I sat down and looked at a piece of health IT history and went oh shit.  Was it really that long ago?

Anyway, I probably am going to write that book, but don't expect it soon. I still have a lot to learn.

     Keith


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