The assignee for this patent application is
Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "In the context of the present invention, forms are structured computer-generated documents or displays used for data entry to computer systems and possibly also for data verification during the data entry process. Forms allow a form provider to acquire structured and standardised data by asking one or more respondents to fill in instances of the form. The data acquired is generally stored in a database so that it can be extracted by appropriate queries and analysed.
"Data entry forms are widely used by a number of different stakeholders, including: users who wish to collect data using forms; form creators who create forms for use by an organisation or by multiple organisations and who may wish to share forms with, or licence forms to, other users; forms automators who may include software vendors and IT departments responsible for the electronic automation of forms; and forms analysers who may include data analysts, information specialists and managers who wish to use, aggregate and work with the data captured using forms.
"There can be substantial benefits in providing sets of standardised forms for use by many users. This reduces or avoids duplication of effort in creating forms for multiple organisations which have the same or similar data capture requirements, and also provides a consistency in data capture such that captured data can be shared between the organisations which are using common data entry forms.
"However, many organisations or other users of data capture forms may have specific needs for data capture or preferences for data capture that they would prefer to implement over and above the generic data capture provided by a standardised form. While the use of a template form or generic standardised form is an ideal starting point, those organisations or users may prefer to add to, delete from, or amend a standardised form so as to allow for slightly different data capture requirements. Allowing such amendments to the standardised forms increases the flexibility for use of the forms by multiple organisations, but presents problems relating to maintaining data integrity and data compatibility between data collected using different versions of the forms. It may also create problems with version control of standard and modified forms and prevent or inhibit aggregation of data acquired using different versions of shared or otherwise generic standardised forms. It may also make it difficult to perform searches on data that has been captured using different form versions and present problems with saving captured data to different databases.
"It is an object of the present invention to provide a solution to some or all of the above problems.
"In GB 2293667B an innovative database system is described which configures a storage model based on a conceptual data model in accordance with a hierarchical structure. Every entity, every attribute and every entity occurrence is assigned a unique, multi-character expression which defines the relationship between each entity, attribute and entity occurrence with every other entity, attribute and entity occurrence in the database and may also uniquely define an attribute value to an occurrence of an entity. The expressions are stored in an expression set table linking each element of each expression with a natural language phrase relating the expression to a hierarchical level and a position in a data model. The 'expressions' used are multi-character expressions conveniently divided into a number of 'words', each of a number of bytes.
"Each multi-character expression indicates a context (in the data model), a specification (e.g. a description/definition of the data being encoded) and a quality (e.g. actual data values or pointers thereto). Where any of these components are unknown or irrelevant, a wildcard character or 'non-deterministic' character can be used. A feature of the expressions used to describe the data model is that similar data structures can be replicated throughout the main tree of multi-character expressions by changing only selected characters in the expression. As discussed in detail in the patent GB 2293667B, and in subsequent related patent GB 2398143B, the use of these multi-character expressions to store data in a database offers extremely fast searching and context switching capability when accessing data from the database.
"In the present invention, the inventors have recognised that the methods of use of the multi-character expressions discussed in GB 2293697B and GB 2398143B, and the benefits thereof, can be adapted and used in techniques for improving the integrity of data input forms and datasets captured using those forms, and for helping provide version control of the forms. The multi-character expressions can be adapted for use not only for determining how captured data is stored and accessed in a database, but also how data entry forms for capturing data can be controlled and managed between different entities using the forms and variations thereof."
In addition to obtaining background information on this patent application, VerticalNews editors also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "According to one aspect, there is provided an apparatus for processing multiple forms, wherein each form comprises at least one data input field and each data input field is configured to enable a respondent to enter input data into the form, the system configured to process a multi-character expression comprising: one or more domain characters representing a domain; and one or more field characters representing at least one data input field of the form, wherein the one or more domain characters is indicative of variations in one or more of: data input fields in the form; discrete values of possible data inputs; and validation logic associated with the at least one data input field.
"A form may comprise more than one data input field. One form may be distinguished from another form by the data input fields in the form, the discrete values of possible data inputs and validation logic associated with the data input fields.
"A data input field may be configured to receive a particular type of data, for example, the respondent's gender, age, height, name or other data. A data input field may be associated with a respondent prompt or question which denotes what data should be entered into the data input field. For example, a respondent prompt may comprise the word 'Gender', and the associated data input field may be configured to allow the respondent to enter a gender. Similarly, a respondent prompt may ask the user 'How old are you?', and the associated data input field may be configured to allow the respondent to enter his or her age.
"The respondent entering the data into the form may be, for example, a user of the form system (e.g. a receptionist registering a patient using a registration form), the subject of the form (e.g. a purchaser using an on-line purchasing form to enter their own address), or a third party (e.g. a parent filing in the details of their child into a school registration form). A user of a form system may include those who wish to gather information using the form.
"At least one data input field may be associated with discrete values of possible data inputs. For example, the data input field 'gender' may be associated with the discrete possible data input values 'male' and 'female'; or the data input field 'height in cm' may be associated with integer possible data input values of height in centimetres between '100' and '210'. The system may be configured to prevent entry of data which is not a possible data input value.
"At least one data input field may be associated with validation logic associated with the at least one data input field. The validation may comprise allowed character checks and/or data type checks. For example, if the data input field was to obtain the name of a person, the validation may check that the response comprised alphabetic characters and not numeric characters. The validation may comprise consistency checks. For example, such validation would ensure that, if a respondent stated that their title was 'Ms', the 'gender' data input field response was 'female'. The validation may comprise presence checks to ensure that required data input fields are filled in. The validation may comprise a limit check and/or a range check. For example, a limit check may ensure that an 'age' data input field response does not exceed a predetermined value (e.g. 150 years old). The system may be configured to notify the respondent if the respondent's response does not satisfy the validation logic.
"The domain may indicate ownership and/or authorship of the form and/or data entry field. The domain may indicate who can edit the form. For example, a form created by a national health service may be of a first domain, whereas a different form created by a particular hospital may be of a second domain. The domain may be associated with the form as a whole or with individual data entry fields.
"The structure of each form may be defined by a dataset, the dataset comprising: a plurality of first multi-character expressions, each first multi-character expression defining a respondent prompt; and respective associated second multi-character expressions, each second multi-character expression defining a data input field.
"Multiple second multi-character expressions may be associated with the same first multi-character expressions (for example, when the respondent prompt age is associated both with a free text data input field and a numeric answer data input field). Multiple first multi-character expressions may be associated with the same second multi-character expressions (for example, when the numeric answer data input field is associated with the respondent prompt age and the respondent prompt height). In some embodiments each first multi-character expression may be associated with a single second multi-character expression.
"The dataset may comprise a plurality of composite multi-character expressions, each composite multi-character expression comprising a said first multi-character expression and the respective associated second multi-character expression.
"The second multi-character expression may be configured to define the type of response available to the associated respondent prompt.
"The dataset may comprise a form item identifier for each combination of a said first multi-character expression and respective associated section multi-character expression, and wherein validation logic is associated with a said form item identifier.
"The system may be configured to store each response provided to each data input field in a database in association with the corresponding second multi-character expression and the respective associated first multi-character expression.
"The system may be configured to store each response provided in association with a subject identifier identifying the subject of the form.
"The multi-character expression may comprise one or more type characters representing a form type. The form type may indicate the purpose of the form, or denote a class of forms. Examples of form type may include registration forms, prescription forms, assessment forms, and/or activity forms.
"A particular form may be associated with a particular domain and with a particular form type. For example, a national health service registration form may be distinct from a
"A form instance may be considered to be a particular instance of a form, such as the form given to a particular individual. For example, the patient
"The multi-character expression may comprise a response character, the response character representing a response of a respondent to the data input field represented by the one or more field characters of the multi-character expression. The multi-character expressions may comprise one or more type characters representing a form type.
"The multi-character expression may comprise an instance character, the instance character representing an instance of a form of a particular form type and form domain.
"The field characters may be configured to be the same regardless of at least one of the form type and domain. It will be appreciated that characters which are same may allow all of the data associated with that character to be extracted using a single query which specifies only that character.
"The processing of a multi-character expression may comprise: generating a said multi-character expression in response to receiving data input associated with a particular data input field from a respondent.
"The processing of a multi-character expression may comprise: querying a database, the database comprising one or more multi-character expressions.
"The querying may comprise: comparing each multi-character expression stored in the database with a multi-character query expression, the multi-character query expression comprising characters that are deterministic to the query and characters that are not deterministic to the query.
"Variations of fields in the form may comprise one or more of: removal of one or more data input fields; and addition of one or more data input fields.
"Each of the characters may have a predetermined position and format within the data expression which is independent of the domain.
"Each multi-character expression may be associated with an interpretation.
"In a further aspect, there is disclosed a method for processing multiple forms, wherein each form comprises at least one data input field and each data input field is configured to enable a respondent to enter input data into the form, the method comprising: processing a multi-character expression comprising: one or more domain characters representing a domain; and one or more field characters representing at least one data input field of the form, wherein the one or more domain characters is indicative of variations in one or more of: data input fields in the form; discrete values of possible data inputs; and validation logic associated with the at least one data input field.
"In a further aspect, there is disclosed a computer program for processing multiple forms, wherein each form comprises at least one data input field and each data input field is configured to enable a respondent to enter input data into the form, the method comprising: processing a multi-character expression comprising: one or more domain characters representing a domain; and one or more field characters representing at least one data input field of the form, wherein the one or more domain characters is indicative of variations in one or more of: data input fields in the form; discrete values of possible data inputs; and validation logic associated with the at least one data input field.
"The computer program may be stored on a storage media (e.g. on a CD, a DVD, a memory stick or other non-transitory medium). The computer program may be configured to run on a device or apparatus as an application (e.g. via an operating system).
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
"The present invention will now be described by way of example, and with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:
"FIG. 1a is a table indicating which data entry fields are present in forms of a particular type and domain;
"FIG. 1b is a table of multi-character expressions and their associated interpretations;
"FIG. 1c is a table of multi-character expressions representing possible responses to corresponding data input fields;
"FIG. 1d is an extract from a database which stores data inputted using a plurality of forms;
"FIGS. 2a-2r are multi character expressions and associated interpretations for forms which can be edited within a forms system; and
"FIGS. 3a-3t are multi character expressions and associated interpretations corresponding to data being generated and stored using a forms system."
For more information, see this patent application: Clifford, Paul; Robinson, Mark; Rogers, Toby. Computerised Data Entry Form Processing. Filed
Keywords for this news article include: Hospital,
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