Kessler, Bossarte, Luedtke, Zaslavsky, Zubizarreta (2019) Machine learning methods for developing precision treatment rules with observational data Behaviour research and therapy 120() 103412


Clinical trials have identified a variety of predictor variables for use in precision treatment protocols, ranging from clinical biomarkers and symptom profiles to self-report measures of various sorts. Although such variables are informative collectively, none has proven sufficiently powerful to guide optimal treatment selection individually. This has prompted growing interest in the development of composite precision treatment rules (PTRs) that are constructed by combining information across a range of predictors. But this work has been hampered by the generally small samples in randomized clinical trials and the use of suboptimal analysis methods to analyze the resulting data. In this paper, we propose to address the sample size problem by: working with large observational electronic medical record databases rather than controlled clinical trials to develop preliminary PTRs; validating these preliminary PTRs in subsequent pragmatic trials; and using ensemble machine learning methods rather than individual algorithms to carry out statistical analyses to develop the PTRs. The major challenges in this proposed approach are that treatment are not randomly assigned in observational databases and that these databases often lack measures of key prescriptive predictors and mental disorder treatment outcomes. We proposed a tiered case-cohort design approach that uses innovative methods for measuring and balancing baseline covariates and estimating PTRs to address these challenges. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.