Emergency Medicine, Disease Surveillance, and Informatics
Venugopal Govindaraju Principal Investigator
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Emergency Medical Systems (EMS) agencies, as first responders in medical emergency scenarios, are uniquely positioned to provide valuable data for surveillance and early warning systems. In most states, all patients who enter the EMS are tracked through their pre-hospital care to the emergency room using the Pre-Hospital Care Report. The PCR is used to gather vital patient information that is used by health care administrators as a resource to identify trends through macro analysis. Currently, the PCR data exists mostly on paper forms and the process of keying this data into a database that can be processed and mined for information can take up to several years as there is no automated means to extract this data from hospitals and transmit them to a central location for collating and analysis. The goal of this research is to attach this deficiency by using document image understanding and handwriting analysis.<br/><br/>Intellectual Merit <br/>The research team work toward solutions to extraction and recognition of handwritten text data from medical forms with loosely constrained layout structure, large medical vocabulary, and abundance of abbreviations and non-standard writing styles. If successful, this work will advance the state-of-the-art in handwriting recognition limited to applications with small 'pristine' vocabularies of less than a thousand words. The proposed task of machine recognition of PCR data from scanned forms requires recognition with vocabularies of tens of thousands of words which must also allow for non-standard abbreviations and medical jargon. <br/>The research challenge in this case will be to use cues from fields on the form that can be recognized <br/>accurately and efficiently, such as check box data, to constrain the size of the vocabulary of the words in the narrative fields. <br/><br/>Broader Impact <br/>Despite the publicity surrounding the issue of preparedness to guard against possible bioterrorist attacks, there have not been many short to middle-term practical technological solutions proposed to address the problem. The proposed project will greatly improve the speed of collecting PCR data to populate a national EMS database, thereby providing emergency medical service providers and health care administrators a wealth of data that can be used in trend analysis for the early detection of outbreak of diseases as well as allocation of public resources for emergency services.