Leveraging electronic health records for predictive modeling of post-surgical complications

Grant B. Weller, Jenna Lovely, David Larson, Berton A. Earnshaw, Marianne Huebner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Hospital-specific electronic health record systems are used to inform clinical practice about best practices and quality improvements. Many surgical centers have developed deterministic clinical decision rules to discover adverse events (e.g. postoperative complications) using electronic health record data. However, these data provide opportunities to use probabilistic methods for early prediction of adverse health events, which may be more informative than deterministic algorithms. Electronic health record data from a set of 9598 colorectal surgery cases from 2010 to 2014 were used to predict the occurrence of selected complications including surgical site infection, ileus, and bleeding. Consistent with previous studies, we find a high rate of missing values for both covariates and complication information (4–90%). Several machine learning classification methods are trained on an 80% random sample of cases and tested on a remaining holdout set. Predictive performance varies by complication, although an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve as high as 0.86 on testing data was achieved for bleeding complications, and accuracy for all complications compares favorably to existing clinical decision rules. Our results confirm that electronic health records provide opportunities for improved risk prediction of surgical complications; however, consideration of data quality and consistency standards is an important step in predictive modeling with such data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalStatistical Methods in Medical Research
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2017


  • clinical decision rules
  • data mining
  • electronic health data
  • predictive modeling
  • regularization
  • statistical machine learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Health Information Management


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