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Acad Med. 1999 Aug;74(8):890-5.

Natural language processing and its future in medicine.

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  • 1Department of Computer Science, Queens College, City University of New York, USA.


If accurate clinical information were available electronically, automated applications could be developed to use this information to improve patient care and lower costs. However, to be fully retrievable, clinical information must be structured or coded. Many online patient reports are not coded, but are recorded in natural-language text that cannot be reliably accessed. Natural language processing (NLP) can solve this problem by extracting and structuring text-based clinical information, making clinical data available for use. NLP systems are quite difficult to develop, as they require substantial amounts of knowledge, but progress has definitely been made. Some NLP systems have been developed and tested and have demonstrated promising performance in practical clinical applications; some of these systems have already been deployed. The authors provide background information about NLP, briefly describe some of the systems that have been recently developed, and discuss the future of NLP in medicine.

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