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Background : This study assesses the feasibility of using machine learning methods such as Random Forests (RF), Artificial Neural Networks (ANN), Support Vector Regression (SVR) and Self-Organizing Feature Maps (SOM) to identify and determine factors associated with hypertensive patients' adherence levels. Hypertension is the medical term for systolic and diastolic blood pressure higher than 140/90 mmHg. A conventional medication adherence scale was used to identify patients' adherence to their prescribed medication. Using machine learning applications to predict precise numeric adherence scores in hypertensive patients has not yet been reported in the literature.

Methods : Data from 160 hypertensive patients from a tertiary hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, were used in this study. Variables were ranked based on their significance to adherence levels using the RF variable importance method. The backward elimination method was then performed using RF to obtain the variables significantly associated with the patients' adherence levels. RF, SVR and ANN models were developed to predict adherence using the identified significant variables. Visualizations of the relationships between hypertensive patients' adherence levels and variables were generated using SOM.

Result : Machine learning models constructed using the selected variables reported RMSE values of 1.42 for ANN, 1.53 for RF, and 1.55 for SVR. The accuracy of the dichotomised scores, calculated based on a percentage of correctly identified adherence values, was used as an additional model performance measure, resulting in accuracies of 65% (ANN), 78% (RF) and 79% (SVR), respectively. The Wilcoxon signed ranked test reported that there was no significant difference between the predictions of the machine learning models and the actual scores. The significant variables identified from the RF variable importance method were educational level, marital status, General Overuse, monthly income, and Specific Concern.

Conclusion : This study suggests an effective alternative to conventional methods in identifying the key variables to understand hypertensive patients' adherence levels. This can be used as a tool to educate patients on the importance of medication in managing hypertension.

Aziz Firdaus, Malek Sorayya, Mhd Ali Adliah, Wong Mee Sieng, Mosleh Mogeeb, Milow Pozi


Adherence level, Artificial neural network, Hypertension, Random forest, Self-organizing Map (SOM), Support Vector Regression, Variable importance