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Ontology Lookup Data Type

Once an ontology has been loaded and the module enabled in your folder, the field editor will include an Ontology Lookup data type for all column types. Any column may be defined to use the standard vocabularies available in a selected ontology source.

There can be up to three related fields in the data structure. The naming does not need to match these conventions, but it can be helpful to clarify which columns contain which elements:

  • columnName_code: The ontology standard code, a string which can either be provided or retrieved from the ontology. This column is configured as an Ontology Lookup and may have one or both of the following related columns:
  • columnName_import: (Optional) The reported, or locally used term that could be imported with the data. If no code is provided, the ontology lookup mechanism will seek a unique code value (and label) matching this term.
  • columnName_label: (Optional) The preferred or standard term retrieved from the ontology. This field is read-only and set by the ontology lookup mechanism as a user-readable supplement to the code value.

Ontology Lookup Rules

On data import (or update), the following ontology lookup actions will occur:

  • If only an "*_import" value is provided, the "*_label" and "*_code" will be populated automatically if found in the ontology as a concept or synonym.
    • Note that a code value can be provided as the "*_import" value and will be a successful lookup, provided it is included in the ontology as a synonym for itself.
  • If the provided "*_import" happens to match a concept "*_label", it will be shown in both columns: retained as the "*_import" and populated by the lookup as the "*_label".
  • If only a code value is provided directly in the "*_code" column, the label will be populated from the ontology. (No "*_import" value will be populated.)
    • Note that when the code value is provided in the "*_code" column, it must be prefixed with the ontology abbreviation. Ex: "NCI:c17113", not just "c17113".
  • If both an "*_import" and "*_code" value are provided (even if null), the "*_code" is controlling. Note that this means that if there is a "*_code" column in your data, it must contain a valid code value, otherwise the "null" value of this column will "overrule" the lookup of any "_import" value provided. This means:
    • For data insert or bulk update, you should include either the "*_code" column or the "*_import" column, but not both, unless the "*_code" is always populated.
    • For data update in the grid, providing an "*_import value will not look up the corresponding code; the "*_code" column is present (and null during the update), so will override the lookup.

Usage Example

For example, if you had a dataset containing a disease diagnosis, and wanted to map to the preferred label and code values from a loaded ontology, you could follow these steps:

  • Create three fields for your "columnName", in this case "Disease", with the field suffixes and types as follows:
Field NameData Type 
Disease_importTextThe term imported for this disease, which might be a synonym or could be the preferred term.
Disease_labelTextThe standard term retrieved from the ontology.
Disease_codeOntology LookupWill display the standard code from the ontology and provides the interconnection

  • Click the to expand the "columnName_code" field.
  • Under Ontology Lookup Options:
    • Choose an Ontology: The loaded ontologies are all available here. Select which to use for this field.
    • Choose an Import Field: Select the "columnName_import" field you defined, here "Disease_import"
    • Choose a Label Field: Select the "columnName_label" field you defined.
  • Save.

When data is imported, it can include either the "*_import" field or the "*_code" field, but not both. When using the "*_import" field, if different terms for the same disease are imported, the preferred term and code fields will standardize them for you. Control which columns are visible using the grid customizer.

Shown here, a variety of methods for entering a COVID-19 diagnosis were provided, including the preferred term for patient PT-105 and the code number itself for PT-104. All rows can be easily grouped and aggregated using the label and code columns. The reported "*_import" value is retained for reference.

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