Temporal data representation, normalization, extraction, and reasoning: A review from clinical domain

Mohcine Madkour, Driss Benhaddou, Cui Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background and objective: We live our lives by the calendar and the clock, but time is also an abstraction, even an illusion. The sense of time can be both domain-specific and complex, and is often left implicit, requiring significant domain knowledge to accurately recognize and harness. In the clinical domain, the momentum gained from recent advances in infrastructure and governance practices has enabled the collection of tremendous amount of data at each moment in time. Electronic health records (EHRs) have paved the way to making these data available for practitioners and researchers. However, temporal data representation, normalization, extraction and reasoning are very important in order to mine such massive data and therefore for constructing the clinical timeline. The objective of this work is to provide an overview of the problem of constructing a timeline at the clinical point of care and to summarize the state-of-the-art in processing temporal information of clinical narratives. Methods: This review surveys the methods used in three important area: modeling and representing of time, medical NLP methods for extracting time, and methods of time reasoning and processing. The review emphasis on the current existing gap between present methods and the semantic web technologies and catch up with the possible combinations. Results: The main findings of this review are revealing the importance of time processing not only in constructing timelines and clinical decision support systems but also as a vital component of EHR data models and operations. Conclusions: Extracting temporal information in clinical narratives is a challenging task. The inclusion of ontologies and semantic web will lead to better assessment of the annotation task and, together with medical NLP techniques, will help resolving granularity and co-reference resolution problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-68
Number of pages17
JournalComputer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Clinical temporal information
  • Medical NLP
  • Ontologies of time
  • Temporal extraction
  • Temporal representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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