The Deterioration Risk Index: Developing and Piloting a Machine Learning Algorithm to Reduce Pediatric Inpatient Deterioration

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2023 Apr 1;24(4):322-333. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000003186. Epub 2023 Feb 2.


Objectives: Develop and deploy a disease cohort-based machine learning algorithm for timely identification of hospitalized pediatric patients at risk for clinical deterioration that outperforms our existing situational awareness program.

Design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: Nationwide Children's Hospital, a freestanding, quaternary-care, academic children's hospital in Columbus, OH.

Patients: All patients admitted to inpatient units participating in the preexisting situational awareness program from October 20, 2015, to December 31, 2019, excluding patients over 18 years old at admission and those with a neonatal ICU stay during their hospitalization.

Interventions: We developed separate algorithms for cardiac, malignancy, and general cohorts via lasso-regularized logistic regression. Candidate model predictors included vital signs, supplemental oxygen, nursing assessments, early warning scores, diagnoses, lab results, and situational awareness criteria. Model performance was characterized in clinical terms and compared with our previous situational awareness program based on a novel retrospective validation approach. Simulations with frontline staff, prior to clinical implementation, informed user experience and refined interdisciplinary workflows. Model implementation was piloted on cardiology and hospital medicine units in early 2021.

Measurements and main results: The Deterioration Risk Index (DRI) was 2.4 times as sensitive as our existing situational awareness program (sensitivities of 53% and 22%, respectively; p < 0.001) and required 2.3 times fewer alarms per detected event (121 DRI alarms per detected event vs 276 for existing program). Notable improvements were a four-fold sensitivity gain for the cardiac diagnostic cohort (73% vs 18%; p < 0.001) and a three-fold gain (81% vs 27%; p < 0.001) for the malignancy diagnostic cohort. Postimplementation pilot results over 18 months revealed a 77% reduction in deterioration events (three events observed vs 13.1 expected, p = 0.001).

Conclusions: The etiology of pediatric inpatient deterioration requires acknowledgement of the unique pathophysiology among cardiology and oncology patients. Selection and weighting of diverse candidate risk factors via machine learning can produce a more sensitive early warning system for clinical deterioration. Leveraging preexisting situational awareness platforms and accounting for operational impacts of model implementation are key aspects to successful bedside translation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms
  • Child
  • Clinical Deterioration*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inpatients
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Machine Learning
  • Neoplasms*
  • Retrospective Studies