The sublanguage of cross-coverage.
Medical Records Systems, Computerized
Natural Language Processing
At Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, free-text "Signout" notes are typed into the electronic record by clinicians for the purpose of cross-coverage. We plan to "unlock" information about adverse events contained in these notes in a subsequent project using Natural Language Processing (NLP). To better understand the requirements for parsing, Signout notes were compared to other common medical notes (ambulatory clinic notes and discharge summaries) on a series of quantitative metrics. They are shorter (mean length 59.25 words vs. 144.11 and 340.85 for ambulatory and discharge notes respectively) and use more abbreviations (26.88% vs. 20.07% and 3.57%). Despite being terser, Signout notes use less ambiguous abbreviations (8.34% vs. 9.09% and 18.02%). Differences were found using Relative Entropy and Squared Chi-square Distance in a novel fashion to compare these medical corpora. Signout notes appear to constitute a unique sublanguage of medicine. The implications for parsing free-text cross-coverage notes into coded medical data are discussed.