The Evidence-base for Using Ontologies and Semantic Integration Methodologies to Support Integrated Chronic Disease Management in Primary and Ambulatory Care: Realist Review. Contribution of the IMIA Primary Health Care Informatics WG

Yearb Med Inform. 2013:8:147-54.


Background: Most chronic diseases are managed in primary and ambulatory care. The chronic care model (CCM) suggests a wide range of community, technological, team and patient factors contribute to effective chronic disease management. Ontologies have the capability to enable formalised linkage of heterogeneous data sources as might be found across the elements of the CCM.

Objective: To describe the evidence base for using ontologies and other semantic integration methods to support chronic disease management.

Method: We reviewed the evidence-base for the use of ontologies and other semantic integration methods within and across the elements of the CCM. We report them using a realist review describing the context in which the mechanism was applied, and any outcome measures.

Results: Most evidence was descriptive with an almost complete absence of empirical research and important gaps in the evidence-base. We found some use of ontologies and semantic integration methods for community support of the medical home and for care in the community. Ubiquitous information technology (IT) and other IT tools were deployed to support self-management support, use of shared registries, health behavioural models and knowledge discovery tools to improve delivery system design. Data quality issues restricted the use of clinical data; however there was an increased use of interoperable data and health system integration.

Conclusions: Ontologies and semantic integration methods are emergent with limited evidence-base for their implementation. However, they have the potential to integrate the disparate community wide data sources to provide the information necessary for effective chronic disease management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care
  • Chronic Disease*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics
  • Primary Health Care
  • Semantics*