The limited use of digital ink in the private-sector primary care physician's office.
Two of the greatest obstacles to the implementation of the standardized electronic medical record are physician and staff acceptance and the development of a complete standardized medical vocabulary. Physicians have found the familiar desktop computer environment cumbersome in the examination room and the coding and hierarchic structure of existing vocabulary inadequate. The author recommends the use of digital ink, the graphic form of the pen computer, in telephone messaging and as a supplement in the examination room encounter note. A key concept in this paper is that the development of a standard electronic medical record cannot occur without the thorough evaluation of the office environment and physicians' concerns. This approach reveals a role for digital ink in telephone messaging and as a supplement to the encounter note. It is hoped that the utilization of digital ink will foster greater physician participation in the development of the electronic medical record. (+info
Searching bibliographic databases effectively.
The ability to search bibliographic databases effectively is now an essential skill for anyone undertaking research in health. This article discusses the way in which databases are constructed and some of the important steps in planning and carrying out a search. Consideration is given to some of the advantages and limitations of searching using both thesaurus and natural language (textword) terms. A selected list of databases in health and medicine is included. (+info
Evaluation of vocabularies for electronic laboratory reporting to public health agencies.
Clinical laboratories and clinicians transmit certain laboratory test results to public health agencies as required by state or local law. Most of these surveillance data are currently received by conventional mail or facsimile transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and Association of Public Health Laboratories are preparing to implement surveillance systems that will use existing laboratory information systems to transmit electronic laboratory results to appropriate public health agencies. The authors anticipate that this will improve the reporting efficiency for these laboratories, reduce manual data entry, and greatly increase the timeliness and utility of the data. The vocabulary and messaging standards used should encourage participation in these new electronic reporting systems by minimizing the cost and inconvenience to laboratories while providing for accurate and complete communication of needed data. This article describes public health data requirements and the influence of vocabulary and messaging standards on implementation. (+info
A semantic lexicon for medical language processing.
OBJECTIVE: Construction of a resource that provides semantic information about words and phrases to facilitate the computer processing of medical narrative. DESIGN: Lexemes (words and word phrases) in the Specialist Lexicon were matched against strings in the 1997 Metathesaurus of the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) developed by the National Library of Medicine. This yielded a "semantic lexicon," in which each lexeme is associated with one or more syntactic types, each of which can have one or more semantic types. The semantic lexicon was then used to assign semantic types to lexemes occurring in a corpus of discharge summaries (603,306 sentences). Lexical items with multiple semantic types were examined to determine whether some of the types could be eliminated, on the basis of usage in discharge summaries. A concordance program was used to find contrasting contexts for each lexeme that would reflect different semantic senses. Based on this evidence, semantic preference rules were developed to reduce the number of lexemes with multiple semantic types. RESULTS: Matching the Specialist Lexicon against the Metathesaurus produced a semantic lexicon with 75,711 lexical forms, 22,805 (30.1 percent) of which had two or more semantic types. Matching the Specialist Lexicon against one year's worth of discharge summaries identified 27,633 distinct lexical forms, 13,322 of which had at least one semantic type. This suggests that the Specialist Lexicon has about 79 percent coverage for syntactic information and 38 percent coverage for semantic information for discharge summaries. Of those lexemes in the corpus that had semantic types, 3,474 (12.6 percent) had two or more types. When semantic preference rules were applied to the semantic lexicon, the number of entries with multiple semantic types was reduced to 423 (1.5 percent). In the discharge summaries, occurrences of lexemes with multiple semantic types were reduced from 9.41 to 1.46 percent. CONCLUSION: Automatic methods can be used to construct a semantic lexicon from existing UMLS sources. This semantic information can aid natural language processing programs that analyze medical narrative, provided that lexemes with multiple semantic types are kept to a minimum. Semantic preference rules can be used to select semantic types that are appropriate to clinical reports. Further work is needed to increase the coverage of the semantic lexicon and to exploit contextual information when selecting semantic senses. (+info
Benefits of an object-oriented database representation for controlled medical terminologies.
OBJECTIVE: Controlled medical terminologies (CMTs) have been recognized as important tools in a variety of medical informatics applications, ranging from patient-record systems to decision-support systems. Controlled medical terminologies are typically organized in semantic network structures consisting of tens to hundreds of thousands of concepts. This overwhelming size and complexity can be a serious barrier to their maintenance and widespread utilization. The authors propose the use of object-oriented databases to address the problems posed by the extensive scope and high complexity of most CMTs for maintenance personnel and general users alike. DESIGN: The authors present a methodology that allows an existing CMT, modeled as a semantic network, to be represented as an equivalent object-oriented database. Such a representation is called an object-oriented health care terminology repository (OOHTR). RESULTS: The major benefit of an OOHTR is its schema, which provides an important layer of structural abstraction. Using the high-level view of a CMT afforded by the schema, one can gain insight into the CMT's overarching organization and begin to better comprehend it. The authors' methodology is applied to the Medical Entities Dictionary (MED), a large CMT developed at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. Examples of how the OOHTR schema facilitated updating, correcting, and improving the design of the MED are presented. CONCLUSION: The OOHTR schema can serve as an important abstraction mechanism for enhancing comprehension of a large CMT, and thus promotes its usability. (+info
Towards a multi-professional patient record--a study of the headings used in clinical practice.
This paper reports on the differences and similarities of headings used in patient records by Swedish health care professionals; nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dietitians, speech therapists, medical social workers and general practitioners. The background to the study is a national project where representatives from the different health care professions have worked together for two years in an effort to develop a multi-professional database of terms for the health care sector. The study reports on an analysis of the existing multi-professional lists of headings with respect to structure, degree of specialization, synonyms and homonyms. The study is descriptive in nature, gives a status report on the variety of headings used in clinical practice, provides necessary material for a normative approach focusing on a truly multiprofessional patient record in the future. (+info
Combining dictionary techniques with extensible markup language (XML)--requirements to a new approach towards flexible and standardized documentation.
In oncology various international and national standards exist for the documentation of different aspects of a disease. Since elements of these standards are repeated in different contexts, a common data dictionary could support consistent representation in any context. For the construction of such a dictionary existing documents have to be worked up in a complex procedure, that considers aspects of hierarchical decomposition of documents and of domain control as well as aspects of user presentation and models of the underlying model of patient data. In contrast to other thesauri, text chunks like definitions or explanations are very important and have to be preserved, since oncologic documentation often means coding and classification on an aggregate level and the safe use of coding systems is an important precondition for comparability of data. This paper discusses the potentials of the use of XML in combination with a dictionary for the promotion and development of standard conformable applications for tumor documentation. (+info
Evaluation of a type definition for representing nursing activities within a concept-based terminologic system.
A terminology model is a conceptual representation that is optimized for the management of terminologic definitions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate one component of a terminology model, a type definition for nursing activity concepts. Two research questions were examined: 1) What percentage of nursing activity terms includes the three essential properties of the type definition (Delivery Mode, Activity Focus, and Recipient)? and 2) Can the nursing activity terms be reliably decomposed into the three elements of the type definition? The sample comprised 1039 non-redundant nursing activity terms collected from the health records of patients hospitalized for an AIDS-related condition. Each nursing activity term was decomposed into the three elements of the type definition by three raters. Percent agreement among the raters ranged from 91.5% to 96.2%. All terms included either an Explicit (82.0%) or Implicit (18.0%) Delivery Mode. Activity Focus was present in 95.1% of the terms in the sample. Recipient was coded as Explicit in 19.2%, Implicit in 75.9%, and Ambiguous in 4.8% of the nursing activity terms in the data set. Mapping among nursing terminologies and convergence of nursing terms within large concept-based health care terminologies has been hindered by the lack of a robust concept representation. A type definition is an essential component of such a representation. Further research is needed to refine the type definition and to incorporate it within a terminology model for nursing concepts. (+info