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Electronic medical records, including pathology reports, are often used for research purposes. Currently, there are few programs freely available to remove identifiers while leaving the remainder of the pathology report text intact. Our goal was to produce an open source, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant, deidentification tool tailored for pathology reports. We designed a three-step process for removing potential identifiers. The first step is to look for identifiers known to be associated with the patient, such as name, medical record number, pathology accession number, etc. Next, a series of pattern matches look for predictable patterns likely to represent identifying data; such as dates, accession numbers and addresses as well as patient, institution and physician names. Finally, individual words are compared with a database of proper names and geographic locations. Pathology reports from three institutions were used to design and test the algorithms. The software was improved iteratively on training sets until it exhibited good performance. 1800 new pathology reports were then processed. Each report was reviewed manually before and after deidentification to catalog all identifiers and note those that were not removed.
Reprinted from Biomed Central Ltd.
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