Context-sensitive medical information retrieval

Mordechai Averbuch, Tom H. Karson*, Benjamin Ben-Ami, Oded Maimon, Lior Rokach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Substantial medical data such as pathology reports, operative reports, discharge summaries, and radiology reports are stored in textual form. Databases containing free-text medical narratives often need to be searched to find relevant information for clinical and research purposes. Terms that appear in these documents tend to appear in different contexts. The context of negation, a negative finding, is of special importance, since many of the most frequently described findings are those denied by the patient or subsequently 'ruled out.' Hence, when searching free-text narratives for patients with a certain medical condition, if negation is not taken into account, many of the retrieved documents will be irrelevant. The purpose of this work is to develop a methodology for automated learning of negative context patterns in medical narratives and test the effect of context identification on the performance of medical information retrieval. The algorithm presented significantly improves the performance of information retrieval done on medical narratives. The precision improves from about 60%, when using context-sensitive retrieval, to nearly 100%. The impact on recall is only minor. In addition, context-sensitive queries enable the user to search for terms in ways not otherwise available.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-286
Number of pages5
JournalStudies in Health Technology and Informatics
StatePublished - 2004


  • Information Management
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Information Systems
  • Medical Informatics


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