Objective: To evaluate a proposed natural language processing (NLP) and machine-learning based automated method to risk stratify abdominal pain patients by analyzing the content of the electronic health record (EHR).
Methods: We analyzed the EHRs of a random sample of 2100 pediatric emergency department (ED) patients with abdominal pain, including all with a final diagnosis of appendicitis. We developed an automated system to extract relevant elements from ED physician notes and lab values and to automatically assign a risk category for acute appendicitis (high, equivocal, or low), based on the Pediatric Appendicitis Score. We evaluated the performance of the system against a manually created gold standard (chart reviews by ED physicians) for recall, specificity, and precision.
Results: The system achieved an average F-measure of 0.867 (0.869 recall and 0.863 precision) for risk classification, which was comparable to physician experts. Recall/precision were 0.897/0.952 in the low-risk category, 0.855/0.886 in the high-risk category, and 0.854/0.766 in the equivocal-risk category. The information that the system required as input to achieve high F-measure was available within the first 4 h of the ED visit.
Conclusions: Automated appendicitis risk categorization based on EHR content, including information from clinical notes, shows comparable performance to physician chart reviewers as measured by their inter-annotator agreement and represents a promising new approach for computerized decision support to promote application of evidence-based medicine at the point of care.
Keywords: Electronic Health Record; Information Extraction; Natural Language Processing; Pediatric Appendicitis Score; Risk Stratification.