Semantic enrichment of longitudinal clinical study data using the CDISC standards and the semantic statistics vocabularies

J Biomed Semantics. 2015 Apr 9;6:16. doi: 10.1186/s13326-015-0012-6. eCollection 2015.


Background: There is an increasing recognition of the need for the data capture phase of clinical studies to be improved and for more effective sharing of clinical data. The Health Care and Life Sciences community has embraced semantic technologies to facilitate the integration of health data from electronic health records, clinical studies and pharmaceutical research. This paper explores the integration of clinical study data exchange standards and semantic statistic vocabularies to deliver clinical data as linked data in a format that is easier to enrich with links to complementary data sources and consume by a broad user base.

Methods: We propose a Linked Clinical Data Cube (LCDC), which combines the strength of the RDF Data Cube and DDI-RDF vocabulary to enrich clinical data based on the CDISC standards. The CDISC standards provide the mechanisms for the data to be standardised, made more accessible and accountable whereas the RDF Data Cube and DDI-RDF vocabularies provide novel approaches to managing large volumes of heterogeneous linked data resources.

Results: We validate our approach using a large-scale longitudinal clinical study into neurodegenerative diseases. This dataset, comprising more than 1600 variables clustered in 25 different sub-domains, has been fully converted into RDF forming one main data cube and one specialised cube for each sub-domain. One sub-domain, the Medications specialised cube, has been linked to relevant external vocabularies, such as the Australian Medicines Terminology and the ATC DDD taxonomy and DrugBank terminology. This provides new dimensions on which to query the data that promote the exploration of drug-drug and drug-disease interactions.

Conclusions: This implementation highlights the effectiveness of the association of the semantic statistics vocabularies for the publication of large heterogeneous data sets as linked data and the integration of the semantic statistics vocabularies with the CDISC standards. In particular, it demonstrates the potential of the two vocabularies in overcoming the monolithic nature of the underlying model and improving the navigation and querying of the data from multiple angles to support richer data analysis of clinical study data. The forecasted benefits are more efficient use of clinicians' time and the potential to facilitate cross-study analysis.

Keywords: Longitudinal clinical study; Medication mapping; Ontology; RDF data cube; Semantic enrichment.