Enhancing the human phenotype ontology for use by the layperson

Nicole A. Vasilevsky, Mark Engelstad, Erin D. Foster, Melissa Haendel, Christopher J. Mungall, Peter Robinson, Sebastian Köhler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In rare or undiagnosed diseases, physicians rely upon genotype and phenotype information in order to compare abnormalities to other known cases and to inform diagnoses. Patients are often the best sources of information about their symptoms and phenotypes. The Human Phenotype Ontology (HPO) contains over 12,000 terms describing abnormal human phenotypes. However, the labels and synonyms in the HPO primarily use medical terminology, which can be difficult for patients and their families to understand. In order to make the HPO more accessible to non-medical experts, we systematically added new synonyms using non-expert terminology (i.e., layperson terms) to the existing HPO classes or tagged existing synonyms as layperson. As a result, the HPO contains over 6,000 classes with layperson synonyms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCEUR Workshop Proceedings
StatePublished - 2016


  • Human phenotype ontology
  • Patient phenotypes
  • Rare disease
  • Synonyms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)

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