The Effectiveness of Multitask Learning for Phenotyping with Electronic Health Records Data

9 Aug 2018  ·  Daisy Yi Ding, Chloé Simpson, Stephen Pfohl, Dave C. Kale, Kenneth Jung, Nigam H. Shah ·

Electronic phenotyping is the task of ascertaining whether an individual has a medical condition of interest by analyzing their medical record and is foundational in clinical informatics. Increasingly, electronic phenotyping is performed via supervised learning... We investigate the effectiveness of multitask learning for phenotyping using electronic health records (EHR) data. Multitask learning aims to improve model performance on a target task by jointly learning additional auxiliary tasks and has been used in disparate areas of machine learning. However, its utility when applied to EHR data has not been established, and prior work suggests that its benefits are inconsistent. We present experiments that elucidate when multitask learning with neural nets improves performance for phenotyping using EHR data relative to neural nets trained for a single phenotype and to well-tuned logistic regression baselines. We find that multitask neural nets consistently outperform single-task neural nets for rare phenotypes but underperform for relatively more common phenotypes. The effect size increases as more auxiliary tasks are added. Moreover, multitask learning reduces the sensitivity of neural nets to hyperparameter settings for rare phenotypes. Last, we quantify phenotype complexity and find that neural nets trained with or without multitask learning do not improve on simple baselines unless the phenotypes are sufficiently complex. read more

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