2019 April JAMIA Journal Club Webinar

April 11, 2019
Free for AMIA members; $50 for non-members.
Chris J. Lu, PhD

Spell checker for consumer language (CSpell)

Lead author Chris J. Lu will discuss this month's JAMIA Journal Club selection:

Lu CJ, Aronson AR, Shooshan SE, Demner-Fushman D. Spell checker for consumer language (CSpell). J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2019 Mar 1;26(3):211-218. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocy171. [Abstract]


Chris J. Lu, PhD
Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications
National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD

Chris J. Lu is a senior systems architect in the Lexical Systems Group (LSG) at the NIH/NLM. His expertise includes tuning software development process, architecture specification, analysis, design, implementation, testing and mentoring. He received his PhD in Computer Integrated Manufacturing and Design (CIMAD) in the mechanical engineering department from University of Maryland.

Chris leads many natural language processing (NLP) projects at the NIH/NLM, including the public releases of the UMLS SPECIALIST Lexicon and Lexical Tools, Visual Tagging Tools (VTT), SubTerm Mapping Tools (STMT), MEDLINE N-gram Set (MNS), Text Categorization Tool (TC) and Spell Checker for Consumer Language (CSpell). He is a member of AMIA, ACM and Academia. Contact him at chlu@mail.nih.gov.


  • 35-minute discussion between the authors and the JAMIA Student Editorial Board moderators including salient features of the published study and its potential impact on practice.
  • 25-minute discussion of questions submitted by listeners via the webinar tools and moderated by JAMIA Student Editorial Board members


JAMIA Journal Club managers and monthly moderators are JAMIA Student Editorial Board members:

Kelson Zawack, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Biostatistics Department, Yale University, New Haven, CT 

Tiffany J. Callahan, MPH, PhD Candidate, Computational Bioscience Program at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO


Kelson Zawack, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow, Biostatistics Department, Yale University, New Haven, CT


The PubMed citation for the paper under discussion is:

Lu CJ, Aronson AR, Shooshan SE, Demner-Fushman D. Spell checker for consumer language (CSpell). J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2019 Mar 1;26(3):211-218. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocy171. [Abstract]

Student Access

Students who are not AMIA members, but whose academic institutions are members of the Academic Forum, are eligible for a complimentary JAMIA Journal Club registration. Please contact Susanne Arnold at susanne@amia.org for the discount code. In the email, please include: full name, Academic Department, and the primary Academic Forum representative of that Academic Department. Note that AMIA Student memberships are $50, which allow access to JAMIA, all JAMIA Journal Clubs, and other webinars of interest to the biomedical informatics community. 

Statement of Purpose

Automated understanding of consumer health inquiries might be hindered by misspellings. To detect and correct various types of spelling errors in consumer health questions, we developed a distributable spell-checking tool, CSpell, that handles nonword errors, real-word errors, word boundary infractions, punctuation errors, and combinations of the above.

We developed a novel approach of using dual embedding within Word2vec for context-dependent corrections. This technique was used in combination with dictionary-based corrections in a 2-stage ranking system. We also developed various splitters and handlers to correct word boundary infractions. All correction approaches are integrated to handle errors in consumer health questions.

CSpell improves over the state of the art and provides near real-time automatic misspelling detection and correction in consumer health questions to achieve an F1 score of 80.93% and 69.17% for spelling error detection and correction, respectively.

Target Audience

The target audience for this activity is professionals and students interested in biomedical and health informatics.

Learning Objectives

The general learning objective for all of the JAMIA Journal Club webinars is that participants will

  • Use a critical appraisal process to assess article validity and to gauge article findings' relevance to practice

After this live activity, the participant should be better able to:

  • Understand different types of spell errors and corrections in consumer’s questions
  • Understand features of CSpell
  • Better use and configure CSpell for NLP projects

Accreditation Statement

The American Medical Informatics Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation Statement

The American Medical Informatics Association designates this live activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™ Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. 

Criteria for Successful Completion

Completion of this live activity is demonstrated by:

  • Viewing the live webinar
  • Viewing CME information at registration
  • Optional submission of questions via webinar feature
  • Completion of the evaluation survey available after the webinar
  • Physicians only: request CME credit and receive certificate

For a certificate of completion, contact Pesha@amia.org.

Note that the archived webinar does not offer continuing education credit. 

Commercial Support

No commercial support was received for this activity.

Disclosure Policy

As a provider accredited by the ACCME, AMIA requires that everyone who is in a position to control the content of an educational activity disclose all relevant financial relationships with any commercial interest for 12 months prior to the educational activity.

The ACCME considers relationships of the person involved in the CME activity to include financial relationships of a spouse or partner.

Faculty and planners who refuse to disclose relevant financial relationships will be disqualified from participating in the CME activity. For an individual with no relevant financial relationship(s), the participants must be informed that no conflicts of interest or financial relationship(s) exist.

AMIA uses a number of methods to resolve potential conflicts of interest, including: limiting content of the presentation to that which has been reviewed by one or more peer reviewers; ensuring that all scientific research referred to conforms to generally accepted standards of experimental design, data collection, and analysis; undertaking review of the educational activity by a content reviewer to evaluate for potential bias, balance in presentation, evidence-based content or other indicators of integrity, and absence of bias; monitoring the educational activity to evaluate for commercial bias in the presentation; and/or reviewing participant feedback to evaluate for commercial bias in the activity.

Disclosures for this Activity

These faculty, planners, and staff who are in a position to control the content of this activity disclose that they and their life partners have no relevant financial relationships with commercial interests: 

JAMIA Journal Club Faculty: Chris J. Lu
JAMIA Journal Club planners: Michael Chiang, Kelson Zawack, Tiffany J. Callahan
AMIA staff: Susanne Arnold, Pesha Rubinstein

Contact Info

For questions about content or CE, email Pesha@amia.org. For questions about webinar access, email Susanne@amia.org