While clinical information systems usually store patient records in database tables, human interpretations as well as information transfer between institutions often require that clinical data can be represented as documents. To automate document generation from patient data in conjunction with the rich computational facilities of clinical decision support, we propose a template-based extension of the Arden Syntax, and discuss the benefits and limitations observed during a pilot application for patient recruitment. While the original Arden Syntax supports string concatenation as well as the substitution of unnamed placeholders, we integrated an additional method based on embedding expressions into strings. A dedicated parser identifies the expressions and automatically substitutes them at runtime, which can for example be harnessed to display the most recent value from a time series. The resulting mechanism supports the generation of extensive clinical documents without the need to apply specific operators. To evaluate the proposed extension, we implemented an Arden module that identifies an intensive care patient cohort that conforms to the eligibility criteria of a clinical trial and outputs a concise patient overview in different document formats. While string interpolation in the original Arden standard has been tailored to clinical event monitoring, we interpret that our accessible approach usefully extends Arden's data-to-text capabilities. Future research might target the development of an interactive template editor that would hide the complexity of formatting directives and conditional expressions behind a graphical user interface, and explore how computer-linguistic formalisms might facilitate advanced features such as automatic inflections of verbs and nouns.
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