OBJECTIVES: The secondary use of medical data contained in electronic medical records, such as hospital discharge letters, is a valuable resource for the improvement of clinical care (e.g. in terms of medication safety) or for research purposes. However, the automated processing and analysis of medical free text still poses a huge challenge to available natural language processing (NLP) systems. The aim of this study was to implement a knowledge-based best of breed approach, combining a terminology server with integrated ontology, a NLP pipeline and a rules engine.
METHODS: We tested the performance of this approach in a use case. The clinical event of interest was the particular drug-disease interaction "proton-pump inhibitor [PPI] use and osteoporosis". Cases were to be identified based on free text digital discharge letters as source of information. Automated detection was validated against a gold standard.
RESULTS: Precision of recognition of osteoporosis was 94.19%, and recall was 97.45%. PPIs were detected with 100% precision and 97.97% recall. The F-score for the detection of the given drug-disease-interaction was 96,13%.
CONCLUSION: We could show that our approach of combining a NLP pipeline, a terminology server, and a rules engine for the purpose of automated detection of clinical events such as drug-disease interactions from free text digital hospital discharge letters was effective. There is huge potential for the implementation in clinical and research contexts, as this approach enables analyses of very high numbers of medical free text documents within a short time period.