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Healthc Inform Res. 2013 Dec;19(4):235-42. doi: 10.4258/hir.2013.19.4.235. Epub 2013 Dec 31.

From concept representations to ontologies: a paradigm shift in health informatics?

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Institute for Medical Informatics, Statistics and Documentation, Medical University of Graz, Graz, Austria.
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Medical Informatics, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. ; Department of Biomedical Engineering, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.
National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, USA.



This work aims at uncovering challenges in biomedical knowledge representation research by providing an understanding of what was historically called "medical concept representation" and used as the name for a working group of the International Medical Informatics Association.


Bibliometrics, text mining, and a social media survey compare the research done in this area between two periods, before and after 2000.


Both the opinion of socially active groups of researchers and the interpretation of bibliometric data since 1988 suggest that the focus of research has moved from "medical concept representation" to "medical ontologies".


It remains debatable whether the observed change amounts to a paradigm shift or whether it simply reflects changes in naming, following the natural evolution of ontology research and engineering activities in the 1990s. The availability of powerful tools to handle ontologies devoted to certain areas of biomedicine has not resulted in a large-scale breakthrough beyond advances in basic research.


Data Mining; Publishing; Semantics; Terminology; Vocabulary

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