Natural Language Processing Applied to Clinical Documentation in Post-acute Care Settings: A Scoping Review

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2024 Jan;25(1):69-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2023.09.006. Epub 2023 Oct 11.


Objectives: To determine the scope of the application of natural language processing to free-text clinical notes in post-acute care and provide a foundation for future natural language processing-based research in these settings.

Design: Scoping review; reported according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews guidelines.

Setting and participants: Post-acute care (ie, home health care, long-term care, skilled nursing facilities, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities).

Methods: PubMed, Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and Embase were searched in February 2023. Eligible studies had quantitative designs that used natural language processing applied to clinical documentation in post-acute care settings. The quality of each study was appraised.

Results: Twenty-one studies were included. Almost all studies were conducted in home health care settings. Most studies extracted data from electronic health records to examine the risk for negative outcomes, including acute care utilization, medication errors, and suicide mortality. About half of the studies did not report age, sex, race, or ethnicity data or use standardized terminologies. Only 8 studies included variables from socio-behavioral domains. Most studies fulfilled all quality appraisal indicators.

Conclusions and implications: The application of natural language processing is nascent in post-acute care settings. Future research should apply natural language processing using standardized terminologies to leverage free-text clinical notes in post-acute care to promote timely, comprehensive, and equitable care. Natural language processing could be integrated with predictive models to help identify patients who are at risk of negative outcomes. Future research should incorporate socio-behavioral determinants and diverse samples to improve health equity in informatics tools.

Keywords: Home health care; long-term care; natural language processing; nursing informatics; post-acute care; scoping review.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Documentation
  • Humans
  • Natural Language Processing*
  • Subacute Care*