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clinical areas

Restricting search results by clinical area

Just over three weeks ago I published Clinical area tagging of documents which highlighted a really useful but fairly neglected part of the site.  In short it’s a system that tags documents, by clinical area, as they are added to Trip.  There are multiple clinical areas e.g. cardiology, urology, oncology.  Users can then search for an item of interest and restrict the search results to a given clinical area.

The motivation for this came, many years ago, from a Professor of Anaesthetics I wanted to demonstrate Trip to.  After two weeks of use they reported back, saying that the results were poor.  Further investigation reveals their interested in awareness under anaesthesia and they had searched for ‘awareness‘.  If you repeat the search yourself (click here) you’ll see very few of the results are related to anaesthesia.  However, if you restrict a search of awareness to anaesthesia (click here) the results are really focused and would have impressed the Professor much more!

We’ve recently overhauled and significantly enhanced the tagging process making it even more powerful.  Give it a try and let me know how you get on.

Below is a brief screencast to show you how to use it.

Finally, for those interested in the mechanism of action around the tagging of documents it’s fairly simple.  We have a list of terms associated with each clinical area.  So, words such as cholesterol, hypertension, statins, angina are associated with cardiology.  The number of words used per area varies, but in some clinical areas it’s well over one hundred. If any article in Trip contains any of these words in the title it’s tagged with the appropriate area.  So, an article on hypertension in children, would be tagged as both cardiology and pediatrics.  Due to the nature of the process it can’t be assumed to be perfect, but it is usually very powerful. 

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Clinical area tagging of documents

Around 6 weeks ago I wrote the article Logging in to Trip which provoked much negative comment. I have clearly not rushed to reply properly but that’s because I’ve wanted to properly think through the issues.  In short, the reason for asking people to log-in meant we knew more about the users and could therefore improve the service we deliver.  As I see it there are two connected issues of concern:

  • Logging in – it’s a pain for users.
  • Profiling users and altering the results accordingly.

One suggestion (from Paul, see comments in previous post), in relation to the second point, is to focus on our refine by clinical area feature.  This is an already available system which tags documents by clinical area.  So, an article titled ‘Cholesterol and the elderly‘ would be tagged as cardiology and geriatrics.  If a user did a search for, say, cholesterol the above document would be returned in the results, alongside many others.  But if they decided to refine by geriatrics, the above document (alongside others tagged with geriatrics) would be moved to the top of the results.

Below are two images showing how it currently works:

The differences are clear and shows the potential for the system.  For me, it’s about helping users find the answers they need really quickly.  An anaesthetist, interested in ‘awareness’, would find the results of the ‘normal’ Trip disappointing but by selected anaesthesiology all the results are relevant.

As mentioned above this system is available already and can be accessed as shown below:

It’s not particularly developed and we could definitely improve it:

  • Machine learning to improve the document tagging
  • Better user interface so it’s more apparent and more intuitive to use.

Ultimately, it might serve a similar role as profiling users in improving the search results.

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