Applications of artificial neural networks in health care organizational decision-making: A scoping review

PLoS One. 2019 Feb 19;14(2):e0212356. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0212356. eCollection 2019.


Health care organizations are leveraging machine-learning techniques, such as artificial neural networks (ANN), to improve delivery of care at a reduced cost. Applications of ANN to diagnosis are well-known; however, ANN are increasingly used to inform health care management decisions. We provide a seminal review of the applications of ANN to health care organizational decision-making. We screened 3,397 articles from six databases with coverage of Health Administration, Computer Science and Business Administration. We extracted study characteristics, aim, methodology and context (including level of analysis) from 80 articles meeting inclusion criteria. Articles were published from 1997-2018 and originated from 24 countries, with a plurality of papers (26 articles) published by authors from the United States. Types of ANN used included ANN (36 articles), feed-forward networks (25 articles), or hybrid models (23 articles); reported accuracy varied from 50% to 100%. The majority of ANN informed decision-making at the micro level (61 articles), between patients and health care providers. Fewer ANN were deployed for intra-organizational (meso- level, 29 articles) and system, policy or inter-organizational (macro- level, 10 articles) decision-making. Our review identifies key characteristics and drivers for market uptake of ANN for health care organizational decision-making to guide further adoption of this technique.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making, Organizational*
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning
  • Neural Networks, Computer*

Grant support

The authors received no specific funding for this work.