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T-Space at The University of Toronto Libraries >
Journal of Medical Internet Research >
Volume 6 (2004) >

Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/4710

Title: Reformulation of Consumer Health Queries with Professional Terminology: A Pilot Study
Authors: Plovnick, Robert M
Zeng, Qing T
Keywords: Original Paper
Information retrieval
consumer informatics
Issue Date: 3-Sep-2004
Publisher: Gunther Eysenbach; Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, Toronto, Canada
Citation: Robert M Plovnick, Qing T Zeng. Reformulation of Consumer Health Queries with Professional Terminology: A Pilot Study. J Med Internet Res 2004;6(3):e27 <URL: http://www.jmir.org/2004/3/e27/>
Abstract: [This item is a preserved copy and is not necessarily the most recent version. To view the current item, visit http://www.jmir.org/2004/3/e27/ ] Background: The Internet is becoming an increasingly important resource for health-information seekers. However, consumers often do not use effective search strategies. Query reformulation is one potential intervention to improve the effectiveness of consumer searches. Objective: We endeavored to answer the research question: "Does reformulating original consumer queries with preferred terminology from the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) Metathesaurus lead to better search returns?" Methods: Consumer-generated queries with known goals (n=16) that could be mapped to UMLS Metathesaurus terminology were used as test samples. Reformulated queries were generated by replacing user terms with Metathesaurus-preferred synonyms (n=18). Searches (n=36) were performed using both a consumer information site and a general search engine. Top 30 precision was used as a performance indicator to compare the performance of the original and reformulated queries. Results: Forty-two percent of the searches utilizing reformulated queries yielded better search returns than their associated original queries, 19% yielded worse results, and the results for the remaining 39% did not change. We identified ambiguous lay terms, expansion of acronyms, and arcane professional terms as causes for changes in performance. Conclusions: We noted a trend towards increased precision when providing substitutions for lay terms, abbreviations, and acronyms. We have found qualitative evidence that reformulating queries with professional terminology may be a promising strategy to improve consumer health-information searches, although we caution that automated reformulation could in fact worsen search performance when the terminology is ill-fitted or arcane.
Description: Reviewer: Tse, Tony
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/4710
ISSN: 1438-8871
Other Identifiers: doi:10.2196/jmir.6.3.e27
Rights: Copyright (cc) Retained by author(s) under a Creative Commons License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Appears in Collections:Volume 6 (2004)

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