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Clinician perspectives on machine learning prognostic algorithms in the routine care of patients with cancer: a qualitative study.

Parikh RB, Manz CR, Nelson MN, Evans CN, Regli SH, O'Connor N, Schuchter LM, Shulman LN, Patel MS, Paladino J, Shea JA. Clinician perspectives on machine learning prognostic algorithms in the routine care of patients with cancer: a qualitative study. Supportive Care in Cancer : Official Journal of The Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer. 2022 May 1; 30(5):4363-4372.

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PURPOSE: Oncologists may overestimate prognosis for patients with cancer, leading to delayed or missed conversations about patients'' goals and subsequent low-quality end-of-life care. Machine learning algorithms may accurately predict mortality risk in cancer, but it is unclear how oncology clinicians would use such algorithms in practice. METHODS: The purpose of this qualitative study was to assess oncology clinicians'' perceptions on the utility and barriers of machine learning prognostic algorithms to prompt advance care planning. Participants included medical oncology physicians and advanced practice providers (APPs) practicing in tertiary and community practices within a large academic healthcare system. Transcripts were coded and analyzed inductively using NVivo software. RESULTS: The study included 29 oncology clinicians (19 physicians, 10 APPs) across 6 practice sites (1 tertiary, 5 community) in the USA. Fourteen participants had previously had exposure to an automated machine learning-based prognostic algorithm as part of a pragmatic randomized trial. Clinicians believed that there was utility for algorithms in validating their own intuition about prognosis and prompting conversations about patient goals and preferences. However, this enthusiasm was tempered by concerns about algorithm accuracy, over-reliance on algorithm predictions, and the ethical implications around disclosure of an algorithm prediction. There was significant variation in tolerance for false positive vs. false negative predictions. CONCLUSION: While oncologists believe there are applications for advanced prognostic algorithms in routine care of patients with cancer, they are concerned about algorithm accuracy, confirmation and automation biases, and ethical issues of prognostic disclosure.

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