Predicting clinical outcomes via machine learning on electronic health records

University dissertation from Halmstad : Halmstad University Press

Abstract: The rising complexity in healthcare, exacerbated by an ageing population, results in ineffective decision-making leading to detrimental effects on care quality and escalates care costs. Consequently, there is a need for smart decision support systems that can empower clinician's to make better informed care decisions. Decisions, which are not only based on general clinical knowledge and personal experience, but also rest on personalised and precise insights about future patient outcomes. A promising approach is to leverage the ongoing digitization of healthcare that generates unprecedented amounts of clinical data stored in Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and couple it with modern Machine Learning (ML) toolset for clinical decision support, and simultaneously, expand the evidence base of medicine. As promising as it sounds, assimilating complete clinical data that provides a rich perspective of the patient's health state comes with a multitude of data-science challenges that impede efficient learning of ML models. This thesis primarily focuses on learning comprehensive patient representations from EHRs. The key challenges of heterogeneity and temporality in EHR data are addressed using human-derived features appended to contextual embeddings of clinical concepts and Long-Short-Term-Memory networks, respectively. The developed models are empirically evaluated in the context of predicting adverse clinical outcomes such as mortality or hospital readmissions. We also present evidence that, surprisingly, different ML models primarily designed for non-EHR analysis (like language processing and time-series prediction) can be combined and adapted into a single framework to efficiently represent EHR data and predict patient outcomes.