, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 165-181

Enhancing electronic medical record retrieval through semantic query expansion

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There are currently many active movements towards computerizing patient healthcare information. As Electronic Medical Record (EMR) systems are being increasingly adopted in healthcare facilities, however, there is a big challenge in effectively utilizing this massive information source. It is very time-consuming for healthcare providers to dig into the voluminous medical records of a patient to find the few that are indeed relevant to the patient’s current problem. Due to the complex semantic relationships among medical concepts and use of many synonyms, antonyms, and hypernym/hyponym, simple word-based information retrieval does not produce satisfactory results. In this paper, we propose an EMR retrieval system that leverages semantic query expansion to retrieve medical records that are relevant to the patient’s current symptom/problem. The proposed framework integrates various technologies, including information retrieval, domain ontologies, automatic semantic relationship learning, as well as a body of domain knowledge elicited from healthcare experts. Knowledge of semantic relationships among medical concepts, such as symptoms, exams and tests, diagnoses, and treatments, as well as knowledge of synonyms and hypernym/hyponyms, is used to expand and enhance initial queries posed by a user. We have implemented a preliminary prototype and conducted a pilot testing using sample nursing notes drawn from the EMR system of a community health center.

Earlier versions of this paper appeared in the Proceedings of the Fourth Workshop on e-Business (WeB) and the Proceedings of the Second China Summer Workshop on Information Management (CSWIM).