Clinical information modeling processes for semantic interoperability of electronic health records: systematic review and inductive analysis

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2015 Jul;22(4):925-34. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocv008. Epub 2015 Mar 21.


Objective: This systematic review aims to identify and compare the existing processes and methodologies that have been published in the literature for defining clinical information models (CIMs) that support the semantic interoperability of electronic health record (EHR) systems.

Material and methods: Following the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses systematic review methodology, the authors reviewed published papers between 2000 and 2013 that covered that semantic interoperability of EHRs, found by searching the PubMed, IEEE Xplore, and ScienceDirect databases. Additionally, after selection of a final group of articles, an inductive content analysis was done to summarize the steps and methodologies followed in order to build CIMs described in those articles.

Results: Three hundred and seventy-eight articles were screened and thirty six were selected for full review. The articles selected for full review were analyzed to extract relevant information for the analysis and characterized according to the steps the authors had followed for clinical information modeling.

Discussion: Most of the reviewed papers lack a detailed description of the modeling methodologies used to create CIMs. A representative example is the lack of description related to the definition of terminology bindings and the publication of the generated models. However, this systematic review confirms that most clinical information modeling activities follow very similar steps for the definition of CIMs. Having a robust and shared methodology could improve their correctness, reliability, and quality.

Conclusion: Independently of implementation technologies and standards, it is possible to find common patterns in methods for developing CIMs, suggesting the viability of defining a unified good practice methodology to be used by any clinical information modeler.

Keywords: clinical information model; clinical information modeling; electronic health record; semantic interoperability; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Health Records / organization & administration*
  • Information Systems / organization & administration
  • Medical Informatics*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Semantics
  • Systems Integration
  • Vocabulary, Controlled*