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    Monitoring COVID-19 on social media: development of an end-to-end natural language processing pipeline using a novel triage and diagnosis approach

    HASAN, Abul and Levene, Mark and Weston, David and Fromson, R. and Koslover, N. and Levene, T. (2022) Monitoring COVID-19 on social media: development of an end-to-end natural language processing pipeline using a novel triage and diagnosis approach. Journal of Medical Internet Research 24 (2), e30397. ISSN 1438-8871.

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    Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has created a pressing need for integrating information from disparate sources in order to assist decision makers. Social media is important in this respect; however, to make sense of the textual information it provides and be able to automate the processing of large amounts of data, natural language processing methods are needed. Social media posts are often noisy, yet they may provide valuable insights regarding the severity and prevalence of the disease in the population. Here, we adopt a triage and diagnosis approach to analyzing social media posts using machine learning techniques for the purpose of disease detection and surveillance. We thus obtain useful prevalence and incidence statistics to identify disease symptoms and their severities, motivated by public health concerns. Objective: This study aims to develop an end-to-end natural language processing pipeline for triage and diagnosis of COVID-19 from patient-authored social media posts in order to provide researchers and public health practitioners with additional information on the symptoms, severity, and prevalence of the disease rather than to provide an actionable decision at the individual level. Methods: The text processing pipeline first extracted COVID-19 symptoms and related concepts, such as severity, duration, negations, and body parts, from patients’ posts using conditional random fields. An unsupervised rule-based algorithm was then applied to establish relations between concepts in the next step of the pipeline. The extracted concepts and relations were subsequently used to construct 2 different vector representations of each post. These vectors were separately applied to build support vector machine learning models to triage patients into 3 categories and diagnose them for COVID-19. Results: We reported macro- and microaveraged F1 scores in the range of 71%-96% and 61%-87%, respectively, for the triage and diagnosis of COVID-19 when the models were trained on human-labeled data. Our experimental results indicated that similar performance can be achieved when the models are trained using predicted labels from concept extraction and rule-based classifiers, thus yielding end-to-end machine learning. In addition, we highlighted important features uncovered by our diagnostic machine learning models and compared them with the most frequent symptoms revealed in another COVID-19 data set. In particular, we found that the most important features are not always the most frequent ones. Conclusions: Our preliminary results show that it is possible to automatically triage and diagnose patients for COVID-19 from social media natural language narratives, using a machine learning pipeline in order to provide information on the severity and prevalence of the disease for use within health surveillance systems.


    Item Type: Article
    Keyword(s) / Subject(s): COVID-19, conditional random fields, disease detection and surveillance, medical social media, natural language processing, severity and prevalence, support vector machines, triage and diagnosis
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences
    Depositing User: David Weston
    Date Deposited: 04 May 2022 12:50
    Last Modified: 09 Aug 2023 12:53


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