OBJECTIVES: Patient-generated health data (PGHD) are important for tracking and monitoring out of clinic health events and supporting shared clinical decisions. Unstructured text as PGHD (eg, medical diary notes and transcriptions) may encapsulate rich information through narratives which can be critical to better understand a patient’s condition. We propose a natural language processing (NLP) supported data synthesis pipeline for unstructured PGHD, focusing on children with special healthcare needs (CSHCN), and demonstrate it with a case study on cystic fibrosis (CF).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: The proposed unstructured data synthesis and information extraction pipeline extract a broad range of health information by combining rule-based approaches with pretrained deep-learning models. Particularly, we build upon the scispaCy biomedical model suite, leveraging its named entity recognition capabilities to identify and link clinically relevant entities to established ontologies such as Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED) and RXNORM. We then use scispaCy’s syntax (grammar) parsing tools to retrieve phrases associated with the entities in medication, dose, therapies, symptoms, bowel movements, and nutrition ontological categories. The pipeline is illustrated and tested with simulated CF patient notes.
RESULTS: The proposed hybrid deep-learning rule-based approach can operate over a variety of natural language note types and allow customization for a given patient or cohort. Viable information was successfully extracted from simulated CF notes. This hybrid pipeline is robust to misspellings and varied word representations and can be tailored to accommodate the needs of a specific patient, cohort, or clinician.
DISCUSSION: The NLP pipeline can extract predefined or ontology-based entities from free-text PGHD, aiming to facilitate remote care and improve chronic disease management. Our implementation makes use of open source models, allowing for this solution to be easily replicated and integrated in different health systems. Outside of the clinic, the use of the NLP pipeline may increase the amount of clinical data recorded by families of CSHCN and ease the process to identify health events from the notes. Similarly, care coordinators, nurses and clinicians would be able to track adherence with medications, identify symptoms, and effectively intervene to improve clinical care. Furthermore, visualization tools can be applied to digest the structured data produced by the pipeline in support of the decision-making process for a patient, caregiver, or provider.
CONCLUSION: Our study demonstrated that an NLP pipeline can be used to create an automated analysis and reporting mechanism for unstructured PGHD. Further studies are suggested with real-world data to assess pipeline performance and further implications.