Context: Goals-of-care discussions are an important quality metric in palliative care. However, goals-of-care discussions are often documented as free text in diverse locations. It is difficult to identify these discussions in the electronic health record (EHR) efficiently.
Objectives: To develop, train, and test an automated approach to identifying goals-of-care discussions in the EHR, using natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning (ML).
Methods: From the electronic health records of an academic health system, we collected a purposive sample of 3183 EHR notes (1435 inpatient notes and 1748 outpatient notes) from 1426 patients with serious illness over 2008-2016, and manually reviewed each note for documentation of goals-of-care discussions. Separately, we developed a program to identify notes containing documentation of goals-of-care discussions using NLP and supervised ML. We estimated the performance characteristics of the NLP/ML program across 100 pairs of randomly partitioned training and test sets. We repeated these methods for inpatient-only and outpatient-only subsets.
Results: Of 3183 notes, 689 contained documentation of goals-of-care discussions. The mean sensitivity of the NLP/ML program was 82.3% (SD 3.2%), and the mean specificity was 97.4% (SD 0.7%). NLP/ML results had a median positive likelihood ratio of 32.2 (IQR 27.5-39.2) and a median negative likelihood ratio of 0.18 (IQR 0.16-0.20). Performance was better in inpatient-only samples than outpatient-only samples.
Conclusion: Using NLP and ML techniques, we developed a novel approach to identifying goals-of-care discussions in the EHR. NLP and ML represent a potential approach toward measuring goals-of-care discussions as a research outcome and quality metric.
Keywords: Natural language processing; electronic health record; goals of care; machine learning; medical informatics; quality improvement.
Copyright © 2020 American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.