Patient privacy assured by electronic censor

Jul 24, 2008

Newly developed software will help to allay patients' fears about who has access to their confidential data. Research published today in the open access journal BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making describes a computer program capable of deleting details from medical records which may identify patients, while leaving important medical information intact.

Patient records that are to be shared within the research community must have any identifying information removed. Manual removal of identifying information is prohibitively expensive and time consuming.

Considerable research by many investigators has focussed on developing automated techniques for "de-identifying" medical records. A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) aimed to solve this problem, pointing out that: "Text-based patient medical records are a vital resource in research. The expense of manual de-identification, coupled with the fact that it is time-consuming and prone to error, necessitates automatic methods for large-scale de-identification."

The MIT team tested their censoring software on a meticulously hand-annotated database of 1836 nursing notes (a total of 296,400 words). According to the authors, "The software successfully deleted more than 94% of the confidential information, while wrongly deleting only 0.2% of the useful content. This is significantly better than one expert working alone, at least as good as two trained medical professionals checking each other's work and many, many times faster than either."

The MIT team is also providing access to the fully-scrubbed annotated data together with the software to allow others to improve their systems, and to allow the software to be adapted to other data types that may exhibit different qualities.

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: 'Ice Bucket Challenge' passes $100 mn mark

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

FIXD tells car drivers via smartphone what is wrong

5 hours ago

A key source of anxiety while driving solo, when even a bothersome back-seat driver's comments would have made you listen: the "check engine" light is on but you do not feel, smell or see anything wrong. ...

Team pioneers strategy for creating new materials

6 hours ago

Making something new is never easy. Scientists constantly theorize about new materials, but when the material is manufactured it doesn't always work as expected. To create a new strategy for designing materials, ...

Shell files new plan to drill in Arctic

6 hours ago

Royal Dutch Shell has submitted a new plan for drilling in the Arctic offshore Alaska, more than one year after halting its program following several embarrassing mishaps.

Aging Africa

6 hours ago

In the September issue of GSA Today, Paul Bierman of the University of Vermont–Burlington and colleagues present a cosmogenic view of erosion, relief generation, and the age of faulting in southernmost Africa ...

Recommended for you

Cold cash just keeps washing in from ALS challenge

Aug 28, 2014

In the couple of hours it took an official from the ALS Association to return a reporter's call for comment, the group's ubiquitous "ice bucket challenge" had brought in a few million more dollars.

Medtronic spends $350M on another European deal

Aug 27, 2014

U.S. medical device maker Medtronic is building stronger ties to Europe, a couple months after announcing a $42.9 billion acquisition that involves moving its main executive offices across the Atlantic, where it can get a ...

Mind over matter for people with disabilities

Aug 26, 2014

People with serious physical disabilities are unable to do the everyday things that most of us take for granted despite having the will – and the brainpower – to do so. This is changing thanks to European ...

User comments : 0