A growing elderly population suffering from incurable, chronic conditions such as dementia present a continual strain on medical services due to mental impairment paired with high comorbidity resulting in increased hospitalization risk. The identification of at risk individuals allows for preventative measures to alleviate said strain. Electronic health records provide opportunity for big data analysis to address such applications. Such data however, provides a challenging problem space for traditional statistics and machine learning due to high dimensionality and sparse data elements. This paper proposes a novel machine learning methodology: entropy regularization with ensemble deep neural networksecnn, which simultaneously provides high predictive performance of hospitalization of patients with dementia whilst enabling an interpretable heuristic analysis of the model architecture, able to identify individual features of importance within a large feature domain space. Experimental results on health records containing 54,647 features were able to identify 10 event indicators within a patient timeline: a collection of diagnostic events, medication prescriptions and procedural events, the highest ranked being essential hypertension. The resulting subset was still able to provide a highly competitive hospitalization prediction (Accuracy: 0.759) as compared to the full feature domain (Accuracy: 0.755) or traditional feature selection techniques (Accuracy: 0.737), a significant reduction in feature size. The discovery and heuristic evidence of correlation provide evidence for further clinical study of said medical events as potential novel indicators. There also remains great potential for adaption of ecnn within other medical big data domains as a data mining tool for novel risk factor identification.
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