Analysis of the Suitability of Existing Medical Ontologies for Building a Scalable Semantic Interoperability Solution Supporting Multi-site Collaboration in Oncology

Ahmed Ibrahim*, Anca Bucur, Andre Dekker, M. Scott Marshall, David Perez-Rey, Raul Alonso-Calvo, Holger Stenzhorn, Sheng Yu, Cyril Krykwinski, Anouar Laarif, Keyur Mehta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingAcademicpeer-review


Semantic interoperability is essential to facilitate efficient collaboration in heterogeneous multi-site healthcare environments. The deployment of a semantic interoperability solution has the potential to enable a wide range of informatics supported applications in clinical care and research both within a single healthcare organization and in a network of organizations. At the same time, building and deploying a semantic interoperability solution may require significant effort to carry out data transformation and to harmonize the semantics of the information in the different systems. Our approach to semantic interoperability leverages existing healthcare standards and ontologies, focusing first on specific clinical domains and key applications, and gradually expanding the solution when needed. An important objective of this work is to create a semantic link between clinical research and care environments to enable applications such as streamlining the execution of multi-centric clinical trials, including the identification of eligible patients for the trials. This paper presents an analysis of the suitability of several widely-used medical ontologies in the clinical domain: SNOMED-CT, LOINC, MedDRA, to capture the semantics of the clinical trial eligibility criteria, of the clinical trial data (e.g., Clinical Report Forms), and of the corresponding patient record data that would enable the automatic identification of eligible patients. Next to the coverage provided by the ontologies we evaluate and compare the sizes of the sets of relevant concepts and their relative frequency to estimate the cost of data transformation, of building the necessary semantic mappings, and of extending the solution to new domains. This analysis shows that our approach is both feasible and scalable.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings - IEEE 14th International Conference on Bioinformatics and Bioengineering, BIBE 2014
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781479975013
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2014

Publication series

SeriesProceedings - IEEE 14th International Conference on Bioinformatics and Bioengineering, BIBE 2014


  • Clinical trials
  • Concepts
  • Data transformation
  • Eligiblity criteria
  • Interoperability
  • MedDRA
  • Medical ontologies
  • Oncology

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