Text Search Tool for Electronic Medical Records Shows Promise for Identifying Postoperative Complications
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Date posted: 24/08/2011
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Health

Use of natural language processing, such as in the form of free-text searches of electronic medical records (EMRs) of clinical and progress notes of patients performed better at identifying postoperative surgical complications than the commonly used administrative data codes in EMRs, according to a study in the August 24/31 issue of JAMA.

To improve on identifying patient safety concerns, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality developed a set of 20 measures, known as the patient safety indicators, which use administrative data to screen for potential adverse events that occur during hospitalization, according to background information in the article. "Currently most automated methods to identify patient safety occurrences rely on administrative data codes; however, free-text searches of electronic medical records could represent an additional surveillance approach," the authors write. "The development of automated approaches, such as natural language processing, that extract specific medical concepts from textual medical documents that do not rely on discharge codes offers a powerful alternative to either unreliable administrative data or labor-intensive, expensive manual chart reviews. Nevertheless, there have been few studies investigating natural language processing tools for the detection of adverse events. It is not known whether a surveillance approach based on language processing searches of free-text documents will perform better than currently used tools based on administrative data."

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