Towards more Accessible Precision Medicine: Building a more Transferable Machine Learning Model to Support Prognostic Decisions for Micro- and Macrovascular Complications of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

J Med Syst. 2019 May 17;43(7):185. doi: 10.1007/s10916-019-1321-6.


Although machine learning models are increasingly being developed for clinical decision support for patients with type 2 diabetes, the adoption of these models into clinical practice remains limited. Currently, machine learning (ML) models are being constructed on local healthcare systems and are validated internally with no expectation that they would validate externally and thus, are rarely transferrable to a different healthcare system. In this work, we aim to demonstrate that (1) even a complex ML model built on a national cohort can be transferred to two local healthcare systems, (2) while a model constructed on a local healthcare system's cohort is difficult to transfer; (3) we examine the impact of training cohort size on the transferability; and (4) we discuss criteria for external validity. We built a model using our previously published Multi-Task Learning-based methodology on a national cohort extracted from OptumLabs® Data Warehouse and transferred the model to two local healthcare systems (i.e., University of Minnesota Medical Center and Mayo Clinic) for external evaluation. The model remained valid when applied to the local patient populations and performed as well as locally constructed models (concordance: .73-.92), demonstrating transferability. The performance of the locally constructed models reduced substantially when applied to each other's healthcare system (concordance: .62-.90). We believe that our modeling approach, in which a model is learned from a national cohort and is externally validated, produces a transferable model, allowing patients at smaller healthcare systems to benefit from precision medicine.

Keywords: Complications of type 2 diabetes; External validation; Large national data; Machine learning; Precision medicine; Transferable model.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Diabetes Complications / drug therapy*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Prognosis