External validation of prognostic models: what, why, how, when and where?

Clin Kidney J. 2020 Nov 24;14(1):49-58. doi: 10.1093/ckj/sfaa188. eCollection 2021 Jan.


Prognostic models that aim to improve the prediction of clinical events, individualized treatment and decision-making are increasingly being developed and published. However, relatively few models are externally validated and validation by independent researchers is rare. External validation is necessary to determine a prediction model's reproducibility and generalizability to new and different patients. Various methodological considerations are important when assessing or designing an external validation study. In this article, an overview is provided of these considerations, starting with what external validation is, what types of external validation can be distinguished and why such studies are a crucial step towards the clinical implementation of accurate prediction models. Statistical analyses and interpretation of external validation results are reviewed in an intuitive manner and considerations for selecting an appropriate existing prediction model and external validation population are discussed. This study enables clinicians and researchers to gain a deeper understanding of how to interpret model validation results and how to translate these results to their own patient population.

Keywords: educational; external validation; methodology; prediction models.

Publication types

  • Review