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J Biomed Inform. 2010 Feb;43(1):24-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2009.08.004. Epub 2009 Aug 13.

Extending the Fellegi-Sunter probabilistic record linkage method for approximate field comparators.

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Department of Biomedical Informatics, University of Utah, Utah, USA.


Probabilistic record linkage is a method commonly used to determine whether demographic records refer to the same person. The Fellegi-Sunter method is a probabilistic approach that uses field weights based on log likelihood ratios to determine record similarity. This paper introduces an extension of the Fellegi-Sunter method that incorporates approximate field comparators in the calculation of field weights. The data warehouse of a large academic medical center was used as a case study. The approximate comparator extension was compared with the Fellegi-Sunter method in its ability to find duplicate records previously identified in the data warehouse using different demographic fields and matching cutoffs. The approximate comparator extension misclassified 25% fewer pairs and had a larger Welch's T statistic than the Fellegi-Sunter method for all field sets and matching cutoffs. The accuracy gain provided by the approximate comparator extension grew as less information was provided and as the matching cutoff increased. Given the ubiquity of linkage in both clinical and research settings, the incremental improvement of the extension has the potential to make a considerable impact.

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