From Sour Grapes to Low-Hanging Fruit: A Case Study Demonstrating a Practical Strategy for Natural Language Processing Portability.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) holds potential for patient care and clinical research, but a gap exists between promise and reality. While some studies have demonstrated portability of NLP systems across multiple sites, challenges remain. Strategies to mitigate these challenges can strive for complex NLP problems using advanced methods (hard-to-reach fruit), or focus on simple NLP problems using practical methods (low-hanging fruit). This paper investigates a practical strategy for NLP portability using extraction of left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) as a use case. We used a tool developed at the Department of Veterans Affair (VA) to extract the LVEF values from free-text echocardiograms in the MIMIC-III database. The approach showed an accuracy of 98.4%, sensitivity of 99.4%, a positive predictive value of 98.7%, and F-score of 99.0%. This experience, in which a simple NLP solution proved highly portable with excellent performance, illustrates the point that simple NLP applications may be easier to disseminate and adapt, and in the short term may prove more useful, than complex applications.