Text Mining and Automation for Processing of Patient Referrals

James Todd, Brent Richards, Bruce J Vanstone, Adrian Gepp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Various tasks within healthcare processes are repetitive and time-consuming, requiring personnel who could be better utilized elsewhere. The task of assigning clinical urgency categories to internal patient referrals is such a case of a time-consuming process, which may be amenable to automation through the application of text mining and Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques.
Objectives: To trial and evaluate a pilot study for the first component of the task – determining reasons for referrals.
Methods: Text is extracted from scanned patient referrals before being processed to remove nonsensical symbols and to identify key information. The processed data are compared against a list of conditions that represent possible reasons for referral. Similarity scores are used as a measure of overlap in terms used in the processed data and the condition list.
Results: This pilot study was successful and results indicate that it would be valuable for future research to develop a more sophisticated classification model for determining reasons for referrals. Issues encountered in the pilot study and methods of addressing them were outlined and should be of use to researchers working on similar problems.
Conclusion: This pilot study successfully demonstrated that there is potential for automating the assignment of reasons for referrals and provides a foundation for further work to build on. This study also outlined a potential application of text mining and NLP to automating a manual task in hospitals to save time of human resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-237
Number of pages6
JournalApplied Clinical Informatics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Mar 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Text Mining and Automation for Processing of Patient Referrals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this