Mayo Clinic and IBM have launched a web site for the newly founded Open Health Natural Language Processing (NLP) Consortium. The consortium is establishing the open-source space to promote continued development of bioinformatics tools to search the electronic medical record.
As part of the launch, Mayo Clinic and IBM released their clinical NLP technologies into the public domain. The site http://www.ohnlp.org will allow the approximately 2,000 researchers and developers working on clinical language systems worldwide to contribute code and further develop the systems.
Natural Language Processing is a relatively new and specialized area within computer science dealing with computational methods for understanding human language. In medicine, clinical NLP systems process the vast repositories of text generated by patient-clinician interactions. Such systems categorize and structure it according to standard nomenclature – in this case focusing on terms used in a range of medical specialties – that will ultimately speed data searches for both diagnoses and medical research. These NLP platforms or “pipelines” aid indexing and searching electronic medical records within institutions to quickly find similar cases or conditions, so physicians are not reliant solely on their own clinical experience in analyzing a problem. Researchers may also use these tools to aid retrospective epidemiological studies or do groundwork for new clinical trials.