The Ontology for the Telehealth Domain – TEON

  • Filipe Santana da Silva Núcleo de Telessaúde Centro de Informática Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
  • Amadeu Sá Campos Filho Núcleo de Telessaúde Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
  • Magdala de Araújo Novaes Núcleo de Telessaúde Departamento de Medicina Interna Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Keywords: Telehealth, Services, Ontology, Representation, Medical Informatics


Information about telehealth is distributed over many systems, generating content overlap and heterogeneity. As a way to standardize nomenclatures and organize content in telehealth systems and applications, the use of standardized vocabularies is recommended. However, most of them rely on informal text-free definitions that bring confusion. Together with this limitation, and due to recent Brazilian regulations concerning the delivery of telehealth services, a Telehealth Ontology (TEON) was developed. This study describes and presents TEON, elucidating its main use-case, its applicability and potential to improve information exchange, interoperability and decision support. TEON was developed based on the upper-domain ontology BioTopLite2 (BTL2) and Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI). The scope of the work includes a set of competency questions to guide the domain modelling. TEON was formalized with Description Logics (DL) and the Web Ontology Language v.2 (OWL2). The telehealth services are composed of three main components: actors, the service itself and temporal-location barriers. The main roles are identified as the requestor, the teleconsultant and the manager. With TEON, we are able to specify if services are synchronous or not. Services are described by means of participants in the process, i.e. by specifying the agents and patients according to their roles. The envisioned use of TEON is to enable the integration of heterogeneous databases from different telehealth systems, considering the formal perspective embedded in ontologies. Currently, TEON is being included in HealthNet (teleconsultation), INDU (tele-education), dataNUTES (management), and SMART (monitoring) through as an integration interface, in order to generate indicators and reports to support telehealth manager’s decision-making and to facilitate providing indicators to the system for monitoring and results evaluation of the National Brazilian Telehealth Program of the Ministry of Health.

Author Biographies

Amadeu Sá Campos Filho, Núcleo de Telessaúde Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Graduate at Engenharia Civil from Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (1998) and master's at Engenharia Civil from Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo (2004). Currently I am doing PhD in Computer Graphic in Informatic Center at Universidade Federal de Pernambuco. Has experience in Computer Science, focusing on Information Systems, acting on the following subjects: E-learning, information visualization and Interface Human Computer and 3D games.
Magdala de Araújo Novaes, Núcleo de Telessaúde Departamento de Medicina Interna Universidade Federal de Pernambuco

PhD in Bioinformatics at the Université d'Aix-Marseille II (France), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in 1993, specialized in information technology applied to organizations by the University of Montpellier I (France), and graduated in Computer Science at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) in 1987 (Brazil). Associate professor of Health Informatics, Department of Internal Medicine, Coordinator of the Research Group on Health Information Technology (TIS) and Coordinator of the Telehealth Center (NUTES) of UFPE - eHealth Unit of the Clinics Hospital. Areas of expertise:information technology and communications in health, clinical informatics, public health informatics, information technology in medical education. Coordinates and develops projects at NUTES with emphasis on primary care and in mental health through telehealth. Member of the Surgery post graduate program at UFPE and collaborator in post graduate programs of Computer Science and Neuropsychiatry. Researcher at the National Institute of Science and Technology of Psychiatry Child and Adolescent Development (INPD). Member of the Brazilian Society of Health Informatics (SBIS). Member of the Advisory Committee of Telemedicine University Network (RUTE) of the National Research Network (RNP).


Ashburner M, Ball CA, Blake JA, et al. Gene Ontology?: tool for the unification of biology. Nat Genet 2000;25(1):25–29.

Blake JA, Christie KR, Dolan ME, et al.. Gene Ontology Consortium: going forward. Nucleic Acids Res 2015;43(D1):D1049–1056.

Donnelly K. SNOMED-CT: The advanced terminology and coding system for eHealth. Stud Heal Technol Inf 2006;121:279–290.

Bashshur R, Shannon G, Krupinski E, Grigsby J. The taxonomy of telemedicine. Telemed e-Health 2011;17(6):484–494.

Brasil, Ministério da Saúde. Telessaúde Brasil Redes. 2015. Available at: accessed 23 October 2015.

Brasil, Ministério da Saúde, Secretaria de Gestão do trabalho e da Educação na Saúde, Departamento de Gestão da Educação na Saúde. Diretrizes para o monitoramento e avaliação do Programa Nacional Telessaúde Brasil Redes, conforme Portaria no 2356 de 27 de outubro de 2011. Brasília, Brasil; 2014.

Santana F, Schulz S, Campos A, Novaes MA. Towards a Formal Representation of Processes and Objects Regarding the Delivery of Telehealth Services: The Telehealth Ontology (TEON). Stud Health Technol Inform 2015;216:1108.

Núcleo de Telessaúde (NUTES). Telehealth Ontology (TEON) [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2015 Nov 10]. Available at: accessed 30 December 2015.

Schulz S, Boeker M. BioTopLite: An Upper Level Ontology for the Life Sciences. Evolution, Design and Application. In: Furbach U, Staab S, editors. Informatik 2013. Koblenz, IOS Press, 2013.

Courtot M, Bug W, Gibson F, Lister AL, Schober D, Brinkman RR, et al. The OWL of Biomedical Investigations. In: Proceedings of the Fifth OWLED Workshop on OWL: Experiences and Directions. Karlsruhe, Germany, 2008.

Calvanese D, Giacomo G De, Lenzerini M. Ontology of integration and integration of ontologies. In: Procs of the 2001 Description Logic Workshop. 2001;10–19.

Poggi A, Lembo D, Calvanese D, De Giacomo G, Lenzerini M, Rosati R. Linking data to ontologies. J Data Semantics X 2008; 4900:133–173.

Uschold M, Gruninger M. Ontologies and semantics for seamless connectivity. ACM SIGMOD Rec 2004 Dec 1;33(4):58-64.

Bloehdorn S, Cimiano P, Hotho A, Staab S. An Ontology-based Framework for Text Mining. LDV Forum - Gld J Comput Linguist Lang Technol 2004;20(1):1–20.

Recio-García J, González-Calero P, Díaz-Agudo B. Jcolibri2: A framework for building Case-based reasoning systems. Sci Comput Program 2014;79:126–145.

Gruninger M, Fox MS. The Role of Competency Questions in Enterprise Engineering. In: Proceedings of the IFIP WG57 Workshop on Benchmarking - Theory and Practice. Trondheim, Norway; 1994;1–17.

Barbosa AKP, de A Novaes M, de Vasconcelos AML. A web application to support telemedicine services in Brazil. AMIA Annu Symp Proc 2003;(1):56–60.

Dias C, Pinto ER, Oliveira AJH de, Mello MR De, Novaes MDA. dataNUTES?: uma proposta de sistema de informações para o gerenciamento de serviços de telessaúde. In: XI Congresso Brasileiro de Informática em Saúde. Campos do Jordão, Brazil; 2008.

Brasil. Sistema de Monitoramento e Avaliação dos Resultados do Telessaúde (SMART) [Internet]. 2015. Available at: accessed 30 December 2015.

Núcleo de Telessaúde (NUTES). Núcleo de Telessaúde. 2015. Available at: accessed 30 December 2015.

Núcleo de Telessaúde (NUTES). RedeNUTES. 2015. Available at: accessed 30 December 2015.

Smith B, Ceusters W, Klagges B, et al. Relations in biomedical ontologies. Genome Biol 2005;6(5):R46.

Noy NF, Shah NH, Whetzel PL, et al. BioPortal: ontologies and integrated data resources at the click of a mouse. Nucl Acids Res 2009;37(Web Server issue):W170–173.

Fernandez M, Gomez-Perez A, Juristo N. METHONTOLOGY?: From ontological art towards ontological engineering. AAAI Technical Report. 1997;SS-97-06:33–40.

Rector AL. Modularisation of domain ontologies implemented in description logics and related formalisms including OWL. In: Proceedings of the international conference on knowledge capture - K-CAP ’03. New York, CM Press; 2003;121-128.

Schober D, Smith B, Lewis SE, et al. Survey-based naming conventions for use in OBO Foundry ontology development. BMC Bioinformatics 2009;10:125.

W3C. OWL 2 Web Ontology Language Document Overview. 2012. World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). 2012. Available at: accessed 30 December 2015.

Tsarkov D, Horrocks I. FaCT ++ Description logic reasoner?: system description. in: lecture notes in computer science including subseries lecture notes in artificial intelligence and lecture notes in bioinformatics. Seattle; Springer Berlin Heidelberg; 2006;292–297

Brasil, Ministério da Saúde, DATASUS. Cadastro Nacional de Estabelecimentos de Saúde (CNES). 2015. Available at: accessed 30 December 2015.

Ganguly S, Kataria P, Juric R, Ertas A, Tanik MM. Sharing information and data across heterogeneous e-health systems. Telemed e-Health 2009;15(5):454–464.

Kara N, Dragoi OA. Reasoning with Contextual Data in Telehealth Applications. Third IEEE Int Conf Wirel Mob Comput Netw Commun (WiMob 2007). Ieee; 2007 Oct;(WiMob):69–69.

Tulu B, Chatterjee S, Maheshwari M. Telemedicine taxonomy: a classification tool. Telemed J eHealth 2007;13(3):349–358.

Freitas F, Schulz S, Moraes E. Survey of current terminologies and ontologies in biology and medicine. Elect J Commun Inf Innov Health Rio de Janeiro 2009;3(1):7–18.

How to Cite
Santana da Silva, F., Sá Campos Filho, A., & de Araújo Novaes, M. (2016). The Ontology for the Telehealth Domain – TEON. Journal of the International Society for Telemedicine and EHealth, 4, e6 (1-8). Retrieved from
Special Theme: Telehealth in Brazil