James Humffray


Developing a Medicines Catalogue using Linked Data Sources

Healthdirect Australia is a government funded organisation providing health information and services to the Australian public. Healthdirect has been using PoolParty for a number of years to manage its health thesaurus, used to improve a user’s search experience by providing the most relevant search results. Due to a need to provide information about medicines and drugs to users we developed a medicines catalogue using datasets from many Australian sources. A terminology service was established to manage and link the data in RDF format. The thesaurus is now also being used as a control list in the terminology service, linking to the medicine and drug datasets. The thesaurus is integral to its success by allowing us to control which medicines to show, (eg. eliminating complementary and alternative medicines), as well as providing the ability to flag warnings (such as pregnancy warnings) based on certain concept attributes. The service is now being integrated with the new national personally controlled electronic health record via the Healthdirect app, allowing users to display contextual information on a medicine when looking at medicines they have been prescribed in their health record.

This presentation describes the issues that led to the creation and setup of a terminology service, the datasets used to provide the information to users, and how the datasets are linked together. The challenges and lessons learnt of the project will also be discussed. We will show what is presented to a user and the benefits they receive. Future developments will also be discussed.
The presentation will begin with a description of Healthdirect, our mission, and the services we provide. We began using PoolParty several years ago to manage a health thesaurus. The thesaurus is used to classify content to improve the search experience of a user, by providing the user with more semantically relevant search results. We discovered, through user research, that many users were searching for medicines information that we did not have. Our solution was to identify relevant and authoritative Australian medicine sources, ingest the data in RDF format into a terminology service, map the relevant relationships, and then aggregate the information to display to a user. It has extended the use of the health thesaurus which we manage in PoolParty and made it more integral as a linked data source, not just as a tool to facilitate search.
We had to overcome challenges with the complexity of the data. At least 10 datasets are being used, all representing medicine data in different ways, creating issues with mapping the data between datasets. Users also need to search at a granular level (for example, right down to medicine pack level). Most of our users are average internet users (at best), so therefore much of the information displayed could be at a level too difficult for them to understand.
After launching just over 12 months ago we conducted user research and are in the process of improving design, usability and accessibility of the data, adding images of medicines from another data source to make it more attractive to users, and identifying more user friendly sources. Also, to be discussed are the ways that we are extending the service by integrating it into the national personally controlled electronic health record to provide contextual information to users. Other extensions include further mapping of the thesaurus to other coding and classification systems, such as the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical coding system and more importantly SNOMED, the international clinical classification system, allowing us to link to other data sources or applications.


James Humffray is Information Manager at Healthdirect Australia, a not-for-profit organisation set up by the Australian government to provide free health information, advice and services to the Australian population. Healthdirect established a health portal platform to manage and publish content on their digital services, using PoolParty as a central component. PoolParty is used to manage a health thesaurus, which is used to improve a user’s search experience and manage presentation of data.
James has been with Healthdirect Australia now for 5 years. Prior to this he worked in the education and media sectors. He is a passionate user of PoolParty!

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