Question-Answering System Extracts Information on Injection Drug Use from Clinical Progress Notes

Injection drug use (IDU) is a dangerous health behavior that increases mortality and morbidity. Identifying IDU early and initiating harm reduction interventions can benefit individuals at risk. However, extracting IDU behaviors from patients' electronic health records (EHR) is difficult because there is no International Classification of Disease (ICD) code and the only place IDU information can be indicated are unstructured free-text clinical progress notes. Although natural language processing (NLP) can efficiently extract this information from unstructured data, there are no validated tools. To address this gap in clinical information, we design and demonstrate a question-answering (QA) framework to extract information on IDU from clinical progress notes. Unlike other methods discussed in the literature, the QA model is able to extract various types of information without being constrained by predefined entities, relations, or concepts. Our framework involves two main steps: (1) generating a gold-standard QA dataset and (2) developing and testing the QA model. This paper also demonstrates the QA model's ability to extract IDU-related information on temporally out-of-distribution data. The results indicate that the majority (51%) of the extracted information by the QA model exactly matches the gold-standard answer and 73% of them contain the gold-standard answer with some additional surrounding words.

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