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In JAMA network open

Importance : Laboratory testing is an important target for high-value care initiatives, constituting the highest volume of medical procedures. Prior studies have found that up to half of all inpatient laboratory tests may be medically unnecessary, but a systematic method to identify these unnecessary tests in individual cases is lacking.

Objective : To systematically identify low-yield inpatient laboratory testing through personalized predictions.

Design, Setting, and Participants : In this retrospective diagnostic study with multivariable prediction models, 116 637 inpatients treated at Stanford University Hospital from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2017, a total of 60 929 inpatients treated at University of Michigan from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2018, and 13 940 inpatients treated at the University of California, San Francisco from January 1 to December 31, 2018, were assessed.

Main Outcomes and Measures : Diagnostic accuracy measures, including sensitivity, specificity, negative predictive values (NPVs), positive predictive values (PPVs), and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC), of machine learning models when predicting whether inpatient laboratory tests yield a normal result as defined by local laboratory reference ranges.

Results : In the recent data sets (July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2017) from Stanford University Hospital (including 22 664 female inpatients with a mean [SD] age of 58.8 [19.0] years and 22 016 male inpatients with a mean [SD] age of 59.0 [18.1] years), among the top 20 highest-volume tests, 792 397 were repeats of orders within 24 hours, including tests that are physiologically unlikely to yield new information that quickly (eg, white blood cell differential, glycated hemoglobin, and serum albumin level). The best-performing machine learning models predicted normal results with an AUROC of 0.90 or greater for 12 stand-alone laboratory tests (eg, sodium AUROC, 0.92 [95% CI, 0.91-0.93]; sensitivity, 98%; specificity, 35%; PPV, 66%; NPV, 93%; lactate dehydrogenase AUROC, 0.93 [95% CI, 0.93-0.94]; sensitivity, 96%; specificity, 65%; PPV, 71%; NPV, 95%; and troponin I AUROC, 0.92 [95% CI, 0.91-0.93]; sensitivity, 88%; specificity, 79%; PPV, 67%; NPV, 93%) and 10 common laboratory test components (eg, hemoglobin AUROC, 0.94 [95% CI, 0.92-0.95]; sensitivity, 99%; specificity, 17%; PPV, 90%; NPV, 81%; creatinine AUROC, 0.96 [95% CI, 0.96-0.97]; sensitivity, 93%; specificity, 83%; PPV, 79%; NPV, 94%; and urea nitrogen AUROC, 0.95 [95% CI, 0.94, 0.96]; sensitivity, 87%; specificity, 89%; PPV, 77%; NPV 94%).

Conclusions and Relevance : The findings suggest that low-yield diagnostic testing is common and can be systematically identified through data-driven methods and patient context-aware predictions. Implementing machine learning models appear to be able to quantify the level of uncertainty and expected information gained from diagnostic tests explicitly, with the potential to encourage useful testing and discourage low-value testing that incurs direct costs and indirect harms.

Xu Song, Hom Jason, Balasubramanian Santhosh, Schroeder Lee F, Najafi Nader, Roy Shivaal, Chen Jonathan H