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“You only genuinely help patients by giving information they can understand.” 

Laurens van den Bercken, student Computer Science - Software Technology, TU Delft

 

From complex texts to comprehensible language
‘You can find a lot of medical research online. But no matter how much information there may be out there, it's of no use to patients if they don't understand it. Simplifying complex medical texts manually entails an awful lot of work. However, my graduation research involves developing a program that automatically simplifies these texts.’ 

 

‘We do this with the help of Wikipedia. Many Wikipedia pages also have a simplified variant. People have rewritten these pages so that they are easier to understand. Our program juxtaposes the sentences and it learns from the differences. It 'trains' itself, as it were; then it starts simplifying sentences from medical Wikipedia articles by itself. We have people who don't have a medical background assess this. Is the grammar correct? Does it still have the same meaning? And, of course, is the sentence simple and understandable?’ 

Next step: simplifying medical terms 
‘"It works remarkably well. The program has now reached the stage where sentences are usually grammatically correct and often simpler. The next crucial step involves simplifying medical terms. For example, people use 'heart attack' as a search term and not 'myocardial infarction.' The program trains itself with medical texts from Wikipedia. We are also building an online dictionary and use Simple Wikipedia to find as many simplified medical terms as possible. We hope that in the end this will make texts more straightforward, not only sentence structures but medical terms as well.’ 

Building a program that genuinely helps patients 
‘My research is only a first step toward creating a well-functioning system. It's a constant balancing act between keeping a sentence simple and retaining enough meaning. You can reach a large group of people with very uncomplicated language; however, there's a danger they will not get the right message because it's worded too simply. The texts must therefore be as simple as possible, while providing the information patients need so they can make cognizant decisions based on clear insight. This also ensures patients don't hold on to false hope but know where they stand. I'm proud to be part of myTomorrows and to be working on a program that will genuinely help patients become better informed.’ 

myTomorrows helps patients who have exhausted their regular treatment options. There may be a suitable treatment option that is in development. Read more and make an appointment with our medical team.

 

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