Identification of Confusable Drug Names: A New Approach and Evaluation Methodology

This paper addresses the mitigation of medical errors due to the confusion of sound-alike and look-alike drug names. Our approach involves application of two new methods---one based on orthographic similarity (``look-alike'') and the other based on phonetic similarity (``sound-alike''). We present a new recall-based evaluation methodology for determining the effectiveness of different similarity measures on drug names. We show that the new orthographic measure (BI-SIM) outperforms other commonly used measures of similarity on a set containing both look-alike and sound-alike pairs, and that the feature-based phonetic approach (ALINE) outperforms orthographic approaches on a test set containing solely sound-alike confusion pairs. However, an approach that combines several different measures achieves the best results on both test sets.