Modern Clinical Text Mining: A Guide and Review

Annu Rev Biomed Data Sci. 2021 Jul 20:4:165-187. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biodatasci-030421-030931. Epub 2021 May 26.


Electronic health records (EHRs) are becoming a vital source of data for healthcare quality improvement, research, and operations. However, much of the most valuable information contained in EHRs remains buried in unstructured text. The field of clinical text mining has advanced rapidly in recent years, transitioning from rule-based approaches to machine learning and, more recently, deep learning. With new methods come new challenges, however, especially for those new to the field. This review provides an overview of clinical text mining for those who are encountering it for the first time (e.g., physician researchers, operational analytics teams, machine learning scientists from other domains). While not a comprehensive survey, this review describes the state of the art, with a particular focus on new tasks and methods developed over the past few years. It also identifies key barriers between these remarkable technical advances and the practical realities of implementation in health systems and in industry.

Keywords: clinical text; electronic health record; machine learning; natural language processing; text mining.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Data Mining*
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning
  • Physicians*
  • Time