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01.12.2019 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 1/2019

A classification framework for exploiting sparse multi-variate temporal features with application to adverse drug event detection in medical records

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making > Ausgabe 1/2019
Francesco Bagattini, Isak Karlsson, Jonathan Rebane, Panagiotis Papapetrou
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s12911-018-0717-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Adverse drug events (ADEs) as well as other preventable adverse events in the hospital setting incur a yearly monetary cost of approximately $3.5 billion, in the United States alone. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to reduce the impact and prevalence of ADEs within the healthcare sector, not only since it will result in reducing human suffering, but also as a means to substantially reduce economical strains on the healthcare system. One approach to mitigate this problem is to employ predictive models. While existing methods have been focusing on the exploitation of static features, limited attention has been given to temporal features.


In this paper, we present a novel classification framework for detecting ADEs in complex Electronic health records (EHRs) by exploiting the temporality and sparsity of the underlying features. The proposed framework consists of three phases for transforming sparse and multi-variate time series features into a single-valued feature representation, which can then be used by any classifier. Moreover, we propose and evaluate three different strategies for leveraging feature sparsity by incorporating it into the new representation.


A large-scale evaluation on 15 ADE datasets extracted from a real-world EHR system shows that the proposed framework achieves significantly improved predictive performance compared to state-of-the-art. Moreover, our framework can reveal features that are clinically consistent with medical findings on ADE detection.


Our study and experimental findings demonstrate that temporal multi-variate features of variable length and with high sparsity can be effectively utilized to predict ADEs from EHRs. Two key advantages of our framework are that it is method agnostic, i.e., versatile, and of low computational cost, i.e., fast; hence providing an important building block for future exploitation within the domain of machine learning from EHRs.
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