Ontologies are primarily used in healthcare to help interpret and better understand medical terminologies. Medical information systems need to store and communicate the medical knowledge and patient information of a physician. In order to do this, medical ontologies are constructed to represent medical terminology systems, so that the end user interprets the information in the way it was original intended.


With an abundant amount of information available online, healthcare information has brought about the need for knowledge processing applications, which allows physicians to retrieve information, answer questions, understanding the information they way it was intended, and also for use in data mining. A useable ontology requires the definition organization, visualization, and utilization of semantic spaces created from knowledge processing applications.

  • Definition: information that is provided by existing terminologies, knowledge bases, expert systems, or extracted from medical literature.
  • Organization: used to organize semantic spaces.
  • Visualization: once defined and organized, semantic spaces can be visualized and presented to users in order to provide users with an accurate representation, which will allow users to retrieve the information they set out for.
  • Utilization: by indentifying relationships between concepts, semantic spaces provide the basic knowledge used in applications.

Ontologies have many advantages in complex information systems such as those found in the field of healthcare. The biggest advantage, though, is their integration of knowledge and data. Ontologies can be used create more powerful information systems in healthcare, giving them the ability to automatically interpret the information exchanged meaningfully and accurately so that useful results are obtained and understood by the end user(s). In short, what is sent is the same as what is understood. In healthcare, ontologies can also be used to transmit, re-use and share patient data, and also provide semantic-based criteria for statistical aggregations. The Medical Ontology Research program is working to create a solid medical ontology which would enable the various knowledge processing applications to effectively communication with one another.
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Web Resources:


Related Terminology:

Medical Natural Language Processing
Collaborative Open Ontology Development Environment Project CO-ODE
Bio-Medical Ontologies: MedO