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In Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association : JAMIA

OBJECTIVE : The 2019 National Natural language processing (NLP) Clinical Challenges (n2c2)/Open Health NLP (OHNLP) shared task track 3, focused on medical concept normalization (MCN) in clinical records. This track aimed to assess the state of the art in identifying and matching salient medical concepts to a controlled vocabulary. In this paper, we describe the task, describe the data set used, compare the participating systems, present results, identify the strengths and limitations of the current state of the art, and identify directions for future research.

MATERIALS AND METHODS : Participating teams were provided with narrative discharge summaries in which text spans corresponding to medical concepts were identified. This paper refers to these text spans as mentions. Teams were tasked with normalizing these mentions to concepts, represented by concept unique identifiers, within the Unified Medical Language System. Submitted systems represented 4 broad categories of approaches: cascading dictionary matching, cosine distance, deep learning, and retrieve-and-rank systems. Disambiguation modules were common across all approaches.

RESULTS : A total of 33 teams participated in the MCN task. The best-performing team achieved an accuracy of 0.8526. The median and mean performances among all teams were 0.7733 and 0.7426, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS : Overall performance among the top 10 teams was high. However, several mention types were challenging for all teams. These included mentions requiring disambiguation of misspelled words, acronyms, abbreviations, and mentions with more than 1 possible semantic type. Also challenging were complex mentions of long, multi-word terms that may require new ways of extracting and representing mention meaning, the use of domain knowledge, parse trees, or hand-crafted rules.

Henry Sam, Wang Yanshan, Shen Feichen, Uzuner Ozlem


clinical narratives, concept normalization, machine learning, natural language processing