NLP helping patients become health literate and healthy

NLP helping patients become health literate and healthy

February 8, 2019 DATAcated Challenge 0

It is a known fact that patients actively involved in the care of their health results in improved health outcomes and lower costs. In the US, patients are now able to access their health records such as clinical notes, laboratory results, and medication lists. EHR notes are mainly written for documentation and communication between providers and the medical jargon confuses the common man. Lack of health literacy has been identified as one barrier in the effective use of EHR records. Misinterpretation of  EHR records can lead to confusion of medical conditions and treatment and disengagement and dissatisfaction.

Promoting health literacy among individuals is key to improving patient engagement and health outcomes. Natural language processing can be used to translate medical terminologies to common definitions easily understood by the common man or bundling health related information to individual EHR notes that can improve patient comprehension. Also, adding common language drug class definitions to medication list can help.

The steps to this process are to create a database of common medical terms found in EHR and then linking these terms to common language definition database. Every time a medical term appears in a patient’s EHR, it is linked to the common language definition database and shows a common easy to understand the definition.

Some of the limitations of this process are

1      All medical jargon might not have a lay definition or might have a complex context that cannot be easily explained. For example, the medical term GI might be translated to “gastrointestinal” that may not be familiar to average patients.

2      Clinicians write clinical narratives in shorthand (abbreviations and acronyms) resulting in ambiguity in meaning.

3      Misspellings in clinical notes can reduce the system’s recall of medical terms.

4      Ungrammatical text which does not support lexical level definition.

By: Shaema Talib


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