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In BMJ health & care informatics

Machine learning algorithms are being used to screen and diagnose disease, prognosticate and predict therapeutic responses. Hundreds of new algorithms are being developed, but whether they improve clinical decision making and patient outcomes remains uncertain. If clinicians are to use algorithms, they need to be reassured that key issues relating to their validity, utility, feasibility, safety and ethical use have been addressed. We propose a checklist of 10 questions that clinicians can ask of those advocating for the use of a particular algorithm, but which do not expect clinicians, as non-experts, to demonstrate mastery over what can be highly complex statistical and computational concepts. The questions are: (1) What is the purpose and context of the algorithm? (2) How good were the data used to train the algorithm? (3) Were there sufficient data to train the algorithm? (4) How well does the algorithm perform? (5) Is the algorithm transferable to new clinical settings? (6) Are the outputs of the algorithm clinically intelligible? (7) How will this algorithm fit into and complement current workflows? (8) Has use of the algorithm been shown to improve patient care and outcomes? (9) Could the algorithm cause patient harm? and (10) Does use of the algorithm raise ethical, legal or social concerns? We provide examples where an algorithm may raise concerns and apply the checklist to a recent review of diagnostic imaging applications. This checklist aims to assist clinicians in assessing algorithm readiness for routine care and identify situations where further refinement and evaluation is required prior to large-scale use.

Scott Ian, Carter Stacey, Coiera Enrico


medical informatics, patient care