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NPJ Digit Med. 2018 Oct 24;1:60. doi: 10.1038/s41746-018-0067-8. eCollection 2018.

DeepTag: inferring diagnoses from veterinary clinical notes.

Author information

1Department of Biomedical Data Science, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305 USA.
2Department of Clinical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523 USA.
3Department of Computer Science and Technology, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China.
Chan-Zuckerberg Biohub, San Francisco, CA 94158 USA.
Contributed equally


Large scale veterinary clinical records can become a powerful resource for patient care and research. However, clinicians lack the time and resource to annotate patient records with standard medical diagnostic codes and most veterinary visits are captured in free-text notes. The lack of standard coding makes it challenging to use the clinical data to improve patient care. It is also a major impediment to cross-species translational research, which relies on the ability to accurately identify patient cohorts with specific diagnostic criteria in humans and animals. In order to reduce the coding burden for veterinary clinical practice and aid translational research, we have developed a deep learning algorithm, DeepTag, which automatically infers diagnostic codes from veterinary free-text notes. DeepTag is trained on a newly curated dataset of 112,558 veterinary notes manually annotated by experts. DeepTag extends multitask LSTM with an improved hierarchical objective that captures the semantic structures between diseases. To foster human-machine collaboration, DeepTag also learns to abstain in examples when it is uncertain and defers them to human experts, resulting in improved performance. DeepTag accurately infers disease codes from free-text even in challenging cross-hospital settings where the text comes from different clinical settings than the ones used for training. It enables automated disease annotation across a broad range of clinical diagnoses with minimal preprocessing. The technical framework in this work can be applied in other medical domains that currently lack medical coding resources.


Health services; Public health

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interestsThe authors declare no competing interests.

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