Synonym Errors and Homonym Errors in Large Medical Terminology Sets
A synonym error is a misassignment of a word to its synonym. The error typically occurs when a word is synonymized to a more specific concept such as procedure, operation, or method. Such errors can occur in large terminology sets such as SNOMED CT, which have more than 8 million terms. The process of maintaining large terminology sets includes the addition of concepts and correcting errors. New concepts are also evaluated for synonymy issues.
Using a sample of records from a cancer registry, we measured the frequencies of homonym errors and synonym errors in these records. We then compared these frequencies to the gold standard. The error rates were then projected to larger registries. The error rate for homonym errors was 0.015%, and the rate for synonym errors was 0.2%. We projected this rate to a much larger database and found that it was around 2%.
Synonym confusion can occur when a word is used in two different contexts. For example, in the case of “quietly,” a synonym is “inaudibly.” The former suggests that the volume was so low that it was difficult to hear the speaker. These two words are often used interchangeably, but they do have their differences. Similarly, “save” and “store” do not have the same synonyms.
An error is defined as an incorrect action or decision that results in an undesirable outcome. These terms can be interchanged in many ways, but the common thread is that they describe a deviation from right conduct or the standard. By comparison, “lapse” focuses on the fact that the action was made in haste, while “error” stresses that the action was wrong.
A high-quality population-based disease registry requires reliable record linkage. Fortunately, rapid improvements in computer processing have made this process much faster and more accurate, but concerns over confidentiality still hamper the process. Because of this, homoonym errors result in underestimation of disease incidence in a registry population. The degree of underestimation depends on the number of records that are registered, as well as the discriminating power of personal identifiers.
An excellent tool for identifying synonyms is an online dictionary. Macmillan English Dictionary has a free online dictionary, pronunciation, and thesaurus. Using a dictionary helps prevent mistakes related to word usage. It also helps you learn new words. It will also help you understand the nuances of different languages.
Another example of a naming error is when abbreviations are misused. In computing texts, abbreviations are often interpreted as names. An example would be a UNIX user saying: “I c a t ed the file before urof f ing it”.