A common type system for clinical natural language processing

Stephen T. Wu, Vinod C. Kaggal, Dmitriy Dligach, James J. Masanz, Pei Chen, Lee Becker, Wendy W. Chapman, Guergana K. Savova, Hongfang Liu, Christopher G. Chute

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: One challenge in reusing clinical data stored in electronic medical records is that these data are heterogenous. Clinical Natural Language Processing (NLP) plays an important role in transforming information in clinical text to a standard representation that is comparable and interoperable. Information may be processed and shared when a type system specifies the allowable data structures. Therefore, we aim to define a common type system for clinical NLP that enables interoperability between structured and unstructured data generated in different clinical settings. Results: We describe a common type system for clinical NLP that has an end target of deep semantics based on Clinical Element Models (CEMs), thus interoperating with structured data and accommodating diverse NLP approaches. The type system has been implemented in UIMA (Unstructured Information Management Architecture) and is fully functional in a popular open-source clinical NLP system, cTAKES (clinical Text Analysis and Knowledge Extraction System) versions 2.0 and later. Conclusions: We have created a type system that targets deep semantics, thereby allowing for NLP systems to encapsulate knowledge from text and share it alongside heterogenous clinical data sources. Rather than surface semantics that are typically the end product of NLP algorithms, CEM-based semantics explicitly build in deep clinical semantics as the point of interoperability with more structured data types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
JournalJournal of Biomedical Semantics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 3 2013


  • Clinical Element Models
  • Clinical information extraction
  • Common type system
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Standards and interoperability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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