Ontology Research Group

Vaccine Information Statement Ontology (VISO)


It has been reported that patient documentation written by federal agencies and medical professionals are written at a level that does not meet the literacy level of patients. In the emerging era of patient-physician shared decision making where patients are actively seeking for answers for health questions from outside sources, a substantial number of patients do not have the necessary skills to have comprehensive health literacy.

Whether it is cancer or vaccine information, there is a need to address the literacy gaps among patients, and investigate potential and innovative informatics solutions that could help impact lowered health literacy. One solution we are embarking on is to codify the patient-level knowledge for systems that can deliver information in various tools that are accessible to patients, specifically encoding the knowledge into ontology-based file formats, OWL or RDF. The benefit of serializing the knowledge into an ontology are:

  • reusable knowledge that can be linked to other ontologies
  • modeling complex information
  • machine readable format to permit computing systems to interface with the knowledge
  • intelligent inferencing and logic to discover new information and data patterns

By merging research in natural language processing, machine-learning, education theories, smart devices, etc., we can have the capacity to develop innovative projects that can equip systems with ability to preform active learning and interact with the patients, improving consumer health education which can ultimately improve the quality of care for patients and conserve the patient-physician relationship.

One of the projects we are developing is a vaccine knowledgebase for patient education called VISO (Vaccine Information Statement Ontology). VISO contains encoded predicates embedded from the CDC Vaccine Information Statements encoded in OWL2. The purpose of VISO is to act as a knowledgebase of patient-friendly vaccine information that can be used by agents to help consumers and patients learn about vaccines that rival brochures and paper-based methods of education. Our initial work to develop the schema and instance information encoded from the first 6 VIS documents have been published by the Journal of Biomedical Semantics and introduced at the International Conference of Biomedical Ontologies. The figure below shows the "parent-level" structure of VISO and our current work with an “HPV version”:

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Currently misinformation about the HPV Vaccine is being propagated in various avenues and affecting the decisions of parents to not protect their children from potential cancers that are caused by the HPV virus. So, we are expanding our work to include information about the three HPV vaccines from the VIS statements and some relevant information from other reliable external sources, with the same goal to use the knowledgebase for projects that can harness the information to be delivered in innovative tools.



  1. Amith M, Gong Y, Cunningham R, Boom J, Tao C. Developing VISO: Vaccine Information Statement Ontology for patient education. Journal of Biomedical Semantics. 2015 May 1;6(1):23.
  2. Amith M, Tao C. A Prototype Mobile Virtual Assistant for Semantic-Based Vaccine Information Retrieval. In: Zheng X, Zeng D, Chen H, Zhang Y, Xing C, Neill D, editors. Smart Health [Internet]. Springer International Publishing; 2014. p. 200–5. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-08416-9_21