Comparison of three information sources for smoking information in electronic health records

Liwei Wang, Xiaoyang Ruan, Ping Yang, Hongfang Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: The primary aim was to compare independent and joint performance of retrieving smoking status through different sources, including narrative text processed by natural language processing (NLP), patient-provided information (PPI), and diagnosis codes (ie, International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision [ICD-9]). We also compared the performance of retrieving smoking strength information (ie, heavy/light smoker) from narrative text and PPI. Materia ls and methods: Our study leveraged an existing lung cancer cohort for smoking status, amount, and strength information, which was manually chart-reviewed. On the NLP side, smoking-related electronic medical record (EMR) data were retrieved first. A pattern-based smoking information extraction module was then implemented to extract smoking-related information. After that, heuristic rules were used to obtain smoking status-related information. Smoking information was also obtained from structured data sources based on diagnosis codes and PPI. Sensitivity, specificity, and accuracy were measured using patients with coverage (ie, the proportion of patients whose smoking status/strength can be effectively determined). Results: NLP alone has the best overall performance for smoking status extraction (patient coverage: 0.88; sensitivity: 0.97; specificity: 0.70; accuracy: 0.88); combining PPI with NLP further improved patient coverage to 0.96. ICD-9 does not provide additional improvement to NLP and its combination with PPI. For smoking strength, combining NLP with PPI has slight improvement over NLP alone. Co nclusio n: These findings suggest that narrative text could serve as a more reliable and comprehensive source for obtaining smoking-related information than structured data sources. PPI, the readily available structured data, could be used as a complementary source for more comprehensive patient coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-242
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Informatics
StatePublished - 2016


  • ICD-9
  • Natural language processing
  • Patient-provided information
  • Smoking status
  • Smoking strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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