Identifying Urinary Tract Infection-Related Information in Home Care Nursing Notes

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2021 May;22(5):1015-1021.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2020.12.010. Epub 2021 Jan 9.


Objectives: Urinary tract infection (UTI) is common in home care but not easily captured with standard assessment. This study aimed to examine the value of nursing notes in detecting UTI signs and symptoms in home care.

Design: The study developed a natural language processing (NLP) algorithm to automatically identify UTI-related information in nursing notes.

Setting and participants: Home care visit notes (n = 1,149,586) and care coordination notes (n = 1,461,171) for 89,459 patients treated in the largest nonprofit home care agency in the United States during 2014.

Measures: We generated 6 categories of UTI-related information from literature and used the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) to identify a preliminary list of terms. The NLP algorithm was tested on a gold standard set of 300 clinical notes annotated by clinical experts. We used structured Outcome and Assessment Information Set data to extract the frequency of UTI-related emergency department (ED) visits or hospitalizations and explored time-patterns in documentation of UTI-related information.

Results: The NLP system achieved very good overall performance (F measure = 0.9, 95% CI: 0.87-0.93) based on the test results obtained by using the notes for patients admitted to the ED or hospital due to UTI. UTI-related information was significantly more prevalent (P < .01 for all the tests) in home care episodes with UTI-related ED admission or hospitalization vs the general patient population; 81% of home care episodes with UTI-related hospitalization or ED admission had at least 1 category of UTI-related information vs 21.6% among episodes without UTI-related hospitalization or ED admission. Frequency of UTI-related information documentation increased in advance of UTI-related hospitalization or ED admission, peaking within a few days before the event.

Conclusions and implications: Information in nursing notes is often overlooked by stakeholders and not integrated into predictive modeling for decision-making support, but our findings highlight their value in early risk identification and care guidance. Health care administrators should consider using NLP to extract clinical data from nursing notes to improve early detection and treatment, which may lead to quality improvement and cost reduction.

Keywords: Urinary tract infection; home care; hospitalization; natural language processing; nursing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Home Care Services*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States
  • Urinary Tract Infections* / diagnosis
  • Urinary Tract Infections* / epidemiology