Enhancing Clinical Information Retrieval through Context-Aware Queries and Indices

Andrew Wen, Yanshan Wang, Vinod C. Kaggal, Sijia Liu, Hongfang Liu, Jungwei Fan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The big data revolution has created a hefty demand for searching large-scale electronic health records (EHRs) to support clinical practice, research, and administration. Despite the volume of data involved, fast and accurate identification of clinical narratives pertinent to a clinical case being seen by any given provider is crucial for decision-making at the point of care. In the general domain, this capability is accomplished through a combination of the inverted index data structure, horizontal scaling, and information retrieval (IR) scoring algorithms. These technologies are also being used in the clinical domain, but have met limited success, particularly as clinical cases become more complex. One barrier affecting clinical performance is that contextual information, such as negation, temporality, and the subject of clinical mentions, impact clinical relevance but is not considered in general IR methodologies. In this study, we implemented a solution by identifying and incorporating the aforementioned semantic contexts as part of IR indexing/scoring with Elasticsearch. Experiments were conducted in comparison to baseline approaches with respect to: 1) evaluation of the impact on the quality (relevance) of the returned results, and 2) evaluation of the impact on execution time and storage requirements. The results showed a 5.1-23.1% improvement in retrieval quality, along with achieving 35% faster query execution time. Cost-wise, the solution required 1.5-2 times larger space and about 3 times increase in indexing time. The higher relevance demonstrated the merit of incorporating contextual information into clinical IR, and the near-constant increase in time and space suggested promising scalability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings - 2019 IEEE International Conference on Big Data, Big Data 2019
EditorsChaitanya Baru, Jun Huan, Latifur Khan, Xiaohua Tony Hu, Ronay Ak, Yuanyuan Tian, Roger Barga, Carlo Zaniolo, Kisung Lee, Yanfang Fanny Ye
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781728108582
StatePublished - Dec 2019
Event2019 IEEE International Conference on Big Data, Big Data 2019 - Los Angeles, United States
Duration: Dec 9 2019Dec 12 2019

Publication series

NameProceedings - 2019 IEEE International Conference on Big Data, Big Data 2019


Conference2019 IEEE International Conference on Big Data, Big Data 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityLos Angeles


  • Clinical Information Retrieval
  • EHR
  • Elasticsearch
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Information Retrieval

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems
  • Information Systems and Management


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