Purpose: Medical images are a significant information source for clinical decision-making. Currently available information retrieval and decision support systems rely primarily on the text of scientific publications to find evidence in support of clinical information needs. The images and illustrations are available only within the full text of a scientific publication and do not directly contribute evidence to such systems. Our first goal is to explore whether image features facilitate finding relevant images that appear in publications. Our second goal is to find promising approaches for providing clinical evidence at the point of service, leveraging information contained in the text and images.
Methods: We studied two approaches to finding illustrative evidence: a supervised machine-learning approach, in which images are classified as being relevant to an information need or not, and a pipeline information retrieval approach, in which images were retrieved using associated text and then re-ranked using content-based image retrieval (CBIR) techniques.
Results: Our information retrieval approach did not benefit from combining textual and image information. However, given sufficient training data for the machine-learning approach, we achieved 56% average precision at 94% recall using textual features, and 27% average precision at 86% recall using image features. Combining these classifiers resulted in improvement up to 81% precision at 96% recall (74% recall at 85% precision, on average) for the requests with over 180 positive training examples.
Conclusions: Our supervised machine-learning methods that combine information from image and text are capable of achieving image annotation and retrieval accuracy acceptable for providing clinical evidence, given sufficient training data.