Assessing the net benefit of machine learning models in the presence of resource constraints

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2023 Mar 16;30(4):668-673. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocad006.


Objective: The objective of this study is to provide a method to calculate model performance measures in the presence of resource constraints, with a focus on net benefit (NB).

Materials and methods: To quantify a model's clinical utility, the Equator Network's TRIPOD guidelines recommend the calculation of the NB, which reflects whether the benefits conferred by intervening on true positives outweigh the harms conferred by intervening on false positives. We refer to the NB achievable in the presence of resource constraints as the realized net benefit (RNB), and provide formulae for calculating the RNB.

Results: Using 4 case studies, we demonstrate the degree to which an absolute constraint (eg, only 3 available intensive care unit [ICU] beds) diminishes the RNB of a hypothetical ICU admission model. We show how the introduction of a relative constraint (eg, surgical beds that can be converted to ICU beds for very high-risk patients) allows us to recoup some of the RNB but with a higher penalty for false positives.

Discussion: RNB can be calculated in silico before the model's output is used to guide care. Accounting for the constraint changes the optimal strategy for ICU bed allocation.

Conclusions: This study provides a method to account for resource constraints when planning model-based interventions, either to avoid implementations where constraints are expected to play a larger role or to design more creative solutions (eg, converted ICU beds) to overcome absolute constraints when possible.

Keywords: machine learning; net benefit; resource constraints.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Hospitalization*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Machine Learning