Predicting Emergency Visits and Hospital Admissions During Radiation and Chemoradiation: An Internally Validated Pretreatment Machine Learning Algorithm

JCO Clin Cancer Inform. 2018 Dec:2:1-11. doi: 10.1200/CCI.18.00037.


Purpose: Patients undergoing radiotherapy (RT) or chemoradiotherapy (CRT) may require emergency department evaluation or hospitalization. Early identification may direct preventative supportive care, improving outcomes and reducing health care costs. We developed and evaluated a machine learning (ML) approach to predict these events.

Methods: A total of 8,134 outpatient courses of RT and CRT from a single institution from 2013 to 2016 were identified. Extensive pretreatment data were programmatically extracted and processed from the electronic health record (EHR). Training and internal validation cohorts were randomly generated (3:1 ratio). Gradient tree boosting (GTB), random forest, support vector machine, and least absolute shrinkage and selection operator logistic regression approaches were trained and internally validated based on area under receiver operating characteristic (AUROC) curve. The most predictive ML approach was also evaluated using only disease- and treatment-related factors to assess predictive gain of extensive EHR data.

Results: All methods had high predictive accuracy, particularly GTB (validation AUROC, 0.798). Extensive EHR data beyond disease and treatment information improved accuracy (delta AUROC, 0.056). A Youden-based cutoff corresponded to validation sensitivity of 81.0% (175 of 216 courses with events) and specificity of 67.3% (1,218 of 1811 courses without events). Interpretability is an important advantage of GTB. Variable importance identified top predictive factors, including treatment (planned RT and systemic therapy), pretreatment encounters (emergency department visits and admissions in the year before treatment), vital signs (weight loss and pain score in the year before treatment), and laboratory values (albumin level at weeks before treatment).

Conclusion: ML predicts emergency visits and hospitalization during cancer therapy. Incorporating predictions into clinical care algorithms may help direct personalized supportive care, improve quality of care, and reduce costs. A prospective trial investigating ML-assisted direction of increased clinical assessments during RT is planned.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Area Under Curve
  • Chemoradiotherapy / adverse effects*
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects*