Development and Application of Question-Answering Techniques for a Remote-Access Medical-Information Retrieval System


The objective of the proposed research program is to further develop the application of Q-A theory and techniques to practical medical information-retrieval systems.

Since July 1968 , NLM (by subcontract issued through EDUCOM and by NLM Contract No. NL 69-13) has sponsored research at Stanford Research Institute that has had as its objective a medical-information retrieval system that would be a part of the Biomedical Communications Network (BCN) and be used by medical personnel and institutions all over the United States. This effort has been concerned with two major topics:

  • Development of an information-retrieval system that will allow users to question the system in relatively natural language and to obtain answers containing both explicit and implicit information based upon facts stored in the system (referred to as a “Question-Answering System”)
  • Retrieval , presentation , and manipulation of information stored in documents (paper , microfiche) for viewers not located at the storage location (referred to as a “Remote Viewing System”).

Two reports issued during the EDUCOM subcontract period (“Summary of Technical Status and Plans on SRI Project 7382 ” 15 November 1968 and “Medical Applications of Remote Electronic Browsing, ” Final Report December 1968), presented to NLM some of SRI’ s preliminary conclusions regarding these two major topics. Of the two topics , remote viewing was the better defined and more amenable to solution by currently known techniques. Those reports discussed the technical problems of remote viewing and suggested a possible test demonstration system involving many of the elements of a practical operational system. The current capabilities and state of development of Question-Answering (Q-A) techniques was also presented.

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