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Papers of the Week

Papers: 19 Nov 2022 - 25 Nov 2022

2022 Nov 21

Diagnosis (Berl)

“Cephalgia” or “migraine”? Solving the headache of assessing clinical reasoning using natural language processing.


In this op-ed, we discuss the advantages of leveraging natural language processing (NLP) in the assessment of clinical reasoning. Clinical reasoning is a complex competency that cannot be easily assessed using multiple-choice questions. Constructed-response assessments can more directly measure important aspects of a learner's clinical reasoning ability, but substantial resources are necessary for their use. We provide an overview of INCITE, the Intelligent Clinical Text Evaluator, a scalable NLP-based computer-assisted scoring system that was developed to measure clinical reasoning ability as assessed in the written documentation portion of the now-discontinued USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills examination. We provide the rationale for building a computer-assisted scoring system that is aligned with the intended use of an assessment. We show how INCITE's NLP pipeline was designed with transparency and interpretability in mind, so that every score produced by the computer-assisted system could be traced back to the text segment it evaluated. We next suggest that, as a consequence of INCITE's transparency and interpretability features, the system may easily be repurposed for formative assessment of clinical reasoning. Finally, we provide the reader with the resources to consider in building their own NLP-based assessment tools.