The role of domain knowledge in automating medical text report classification

Adam B. Wilcox, George Hripcsak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Objective: To analyze the effect of expert knowledge on the inductive learning process in creating classifiers for medical text reports. Design: The authors converted medical text reports to a structured form through natural language processing. They then inductively created classifiers for medical text reports using varying degrees and types of expert knowledge and different inductive learning algorithms. The authors measured performance of the different classifiers as well as the costs to induce classifiers and acquire expert knowledge. Measurements: The measurements used were classifier performance, training-set size efficiency, and classifier creation cost. Results: Expert knowledge was shown to be the most significant factor affecting inductive learning performance, outweighing differences in learning algorithms. The use of expert knowledge can affect comparisons between learning algorithms. This expert knowledge may be obtained and represented separately as knowledge about the clinical task or about the data representation used. The benefit of the expert knowledge is more than that of inductive learning itself, with less cost to obtain. Conclusion: For medical text report classification, expert knowledge acquisition is more significant to performance and more cost-effective to obtain than knowledge discovery. Building classifiers should therefore focus more on acquiring knowledge from experts than trying to learn this knowledge inductively.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)330-338
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Medical Informatics Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2003


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