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In IEEE access : practical innovations, open solutions

In the last years, the need to de-identify privacy-sensitive information within Electronic Health Records (EHRs) has become increasingly felt and extremely relevant to encourage the sharing and publication of their content in accordance with the restrictions imposed by both national and supranational privacy authorities. In the field of Natural Language Processing (NLP), several deep learning techniques for Named Entity Recognition (NER) have been applied to face this issue, significantly improving the effectiveness in identifying sensitive information in EHRs written in English. However, the lack of data sets in other languages has strongly limited their applicability and performance evaluation. To this aim, a new de-identification data set in Italian has been developed in this work, starting from the 115 COVID-19 EHRs provided by the Italian Society of Radiology (SIRM): 65 were used for training and development, the remaining 50 were used for testing. The data set was labelled following the guidelines of the i2b2 2014 de-identification track. As additional contribution, combined with the best performing Bi-LSTM + CRF sequence labeling architecture, a stacked word representation form, not yet experimented for the Italian clinical de-identification scenario, has been tested, based both on a contextualized linguistic model to manage word polysemy and its morpho-syntactic variations and on sub-word embeddings to better capture latent syntactic and semantic similarities. Finally, other cutting-edge approaches were compared with the proposed model, which achieved the best performance highlighting the goodness of the promoted approach.

Catelli Rosario, Gargiulo Francesco, Casola Valentina, De Pietro Giuseppe, Fujita Hamido, Esposito Massimo


Clinical de-identification, Italian language, contextualized embedding, deep learning, named entity recognition