Evaluation of machine learning methodology for the prediction of healthcare resource utilization and healthcare costs in patients with critical limb ischemia—is preventive and personalized approach on the horizon?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



EPMA Journal








Critical limb ischemia; Healthcare costs; Healthcare resource utilization; Machine learning; Predictive preventive personalized medicine; Vascular disease


© 2020, European Association for Predictive, Preventive and Personalised Medicine (EPMA). Background: Critical limb ischemia (CLI) is a severe stage of peripheral arterial disease and has a substantial disease and economic burden not only to patients and families, but also to the society and healthcare systems. We aim to develop a personalized prediction model that utilizes baseline patient characteristics prior to CLI diagnosis to predict subsequent 1-year all-cause hospitalizations and total annual healthcare cost, using a novel Bayesian machine learning platform, Reverse Engineering Forward Simulation™ (REFS™), to support a paradigm shift from reactive healthcare to Predictive Preventive and Personalized Medicine (PPPM)-driven healthcare. Methods: Patients ≥ 50 years with CLI plus clinical activity for a 6-month pre-index and a 12-month post-index period or death during the post-index period were included in this retrospective cohort of the linked Optum-Humedica databases. REFS™ built an ensemble of 256 predictive models to identify predictors of all-cause hospitalizations and total annual all-cause healthcare costs during the 12-month post-index interval. Results: The mean age of 3189 eligible patients was 71.9 years. The most common CLI-related comorbidities were hypertension (79.5%), dyslipidemia (61.4%), coronary atherosclerosis and other heart disease (42.3%), and type 2 diabetes (39.2%). Post-index CLI-related healthcare utilization included inpatient services (14.6%) and ≥ 1 outpatient visits (32.1%). Median annual all-cause and CLI-related costs per patient were $30,514 and $2196, respectively. REFS™ identified diagnosis of skin and subcutaneous tissue infections, cellulitis and abscess, use of nonselective beta-blockers, other aftercare, and osteoarthritis as high confidence predictors of all-cause hospitalizations. The leading predictors for total all-cause costs included region of residence and comorbid health conditions including other diseases of kidney and ureters, blindness of vision defects, chronic ulcer of skin, and chronic ulcer of leg or foot. Conclusions: REFS™ identified baseline predictors of subsequent healthcare resource utilization and costs in CLI patients. Machine learning and model-based, data-driven medicine may complement physicians’ evidence-based medical services. These findings also support the PPPM framework that a paradigm shift from post-diagnosis disease care to early management of comorbidities and targeted prevention is warranted to deliver a cost-effective medical services and desirable healthcare economy.