Retrieval for Clinical Knowledge

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The Retrieval for Clinical Knowledge Profile describes how Health IT systems, Person Health Records, and HIEs can retrieve clinical knowledge on a topic suitable for presentation to a clinician or patient.


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Each time an EHR or PHR wants to integrate with a new provider of clinical content, a new interface needs to be developed. The Retrieval for Clinical Knowledge (RCK) Profile provides a more complete implementation specification that will ensure that the same interface can be used across a wide variety of clinical content.The profile combines information presently found in standards and implementation guides from Health Level 7 International (HL7), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and IHE to describe a single interface that can be used by any system needing access to clinical content.


This profile provides a consistent set of rules for issuing knowledge requests for information that is either patient-, clinician- or payer-oriented, and on how to return results so that EHRs and PHRs can process the results and display them in a uniform way.


There are a great number of web resources available that support access of Clinical Knowledge on a specific disease, medical condition, set of symptoms or complaints, medications, et cetera for both clinicians and patients. However, these resources have inconsistent representations of content, search APIs, and responses, making them difficult to integrate into Healthcare IT solutions. Clinical content is typically organized using different kinds of index terms. A system that wishes to locate relevant content (a Clinical Knowledge Requester) supplies the terms of interest it knows, and the system retrieving the content (a Clinical Knowledge Directory) matches these terms against the index terms it has for the clinical content. A variety of different technical approaches allow results to be ranked according to relevance and/or filtered based on content in the index terms provided.

The Retrieve Clinical Knowledge (RCK) profile specifies the names of the different index terms that can be used to retrieve relevant content, and the range of possible values that can be used for those terms. It also places requirements upon which terms must be used in the request. Receivers of the request are free to ignore search terms that they do not use. Foreknowledge of the index terms allows content suppliers to appropriately index and or map requests into the values they use to access content. It also makes it possible for applications making requests to use a common interface, without requiring complex interface configuration to enabling discovery and mapping to index terms used by the content supplier.

Systems Affected

  • Health IT systems
  • Personal Health Records
  • Healthcare Information Exchange Systems

Actors & Transactions:

  • Clinical Knowledge Directory
  • Clinical Knowledge Requestor
  • Clinical Knowledge Resource Repository

RCK Transactions.png


Profile Status: Trial Implementation


IHE Patient Care Coordination Technical Framework:

Underlying Standards:

  • • [Infobutton] HL7 Version 3 Standard: Context-Aware Retrieval Application (Infobutton); Release 1 [1]
  • • [InfobuttonURL] HL7 Version 3 Implementation Guide: URL-Based Implementations of the Context-Aware Information Retrieval (Infobutton) Domain, Release 3 [2]
  • • [InfobuttonSOA] Context-Aware Knowledge Retrieval (Infobutton) Service Oriented Architecture Implementation Guide, Release 1 [3]
  • • [Atom] RFC-4287 The Atom Syndication Format [4]
  • • [DC] DCMI Metadata Terms (Dublin Core) [5]
  • • [RFC3986] Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax [6]
  • • [HTML4] HTML 4.01 Specification [7]

See Also

Related Profiles

  • Personal Health Records (XPHR) profile
  • Antepartum Laboratory (APL) profile
  • Request Form for Data Capture (RFD) profile