Automated generation of patient-tailored electronic care pathways by translating computer-interpretable guidelines into hierarchical task networks

A. González-Ferrer, A.C.M. ten Teije, J. Fdez-Olivares, K. Milian

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: This paper describes a methodology which enables computer-aided support for the planning, visualization and execution of personalized patient treatments in a specific healthcare process, taking into account complex temporal constraints and the allocation of institutional resources. To this end, a translation from a time-annotated computer-interpretable guideline (CIG) model of a clinical protocol into a temporal hierarchical task network (HTN) planning domain is presented.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: The proposed method uses a knowledge-driven reasoning process to translate knowledge previously described in a CIG into a corresponding HTN Planning and Scheduling domain, taking advantage of HTNs known ability to (i) dynamically cope with temporal and resource constraints, and (ii) automatically generate customized plans. The proposed method, focusing on the representation of temporal knowledge and based on the identification of workflow and temporal patterns in a CIG, makes it possible to automatically generate time-annotated and resource-based care pathways tailored to the needs of any possible patient profile.

RESULTS: The proposed translation is illustrated through a case study based on a 70 pages long clinical protocol to manage Hodgkin's disease, developed by the Spanish Society of Pediatric Oncology. We show that an HTN planning domain can be generated from the corresponding specification of the protocol in the Asbru language, providing a running example of this translation. Furthermore, the correctness of the translation is checked and also the management of ten different types of temporal patterns represented in the protocol. By interpreting the automatically generated domain with a state-of-art HTN planner, a time-annotated care pathway is automatically obtained, customized for the patient's and institutional needs. The generated care pathway can then be used by clinicians to plan and manage the patients long-term care.

CONCLUSION: The described methodology makes it possible to automatically generate patient-tailored care pathways, leveraging an incremental knowledge-driven engineering process that starts from the expert knowledge of medical professionals. The presented approach makes the most of the strengths inherent in both CIG languages and HTN planning and scheduling techniques: for the former, knowledge acquisition and representation of the original clinical protocol, and for the latter, knowledge reasoning capabilities and an ability to deal with complex temporal and resource constraints. Moreover, the proposed approach provides immediate access to technologies such as business process management (BPM) tools, which are increasingly being used to support healthcare processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-109
Number of pages19
JournalArtificial Intelligence in Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2013


  • Antineoplastic Protocols
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Critical Pathways
  • Decision Making, Computer-Assisted
  • Hodgkin Disease
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Patient Care Planning
  • Pediatrics
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Workflow
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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