Automated identification of common disease-specific outcomes for comparative effectiveness research using Algorithm development and validation study

Anas Elghafari, Joseph Finkelstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Common disease-specific outcomes are vital for ensuring comparability of clinical trial data and enabling meta analyses and interstudy comparisons. Traditionally, the process of deciding which outcomes should be recommended as common for a particular disease relied on assembling and surveying panels of subject-matter experts. This is usually a time-consuming and laborious process. Objective: The objectives of this work were to develop and evaluate a generalized pipeline that can automatically identify common outcomes specific to any given disease by finding, downloading, and analyzing data of previous clinical trials relevant to that disease. Methods: An automated pipeline to interface with’s application programming interface and download the relevant trials for the input condition was designed. The primary and secondary outcomes of those trials were parsed and grouped based on text similarity and ranked based on frequency. The quality and usefulness of the pipeline’s output were assessed by comparing the top outcomes identified by it for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to a list of 80 outcomes manually abstracted from the most frequently cited and comprehensive reviews delineating clinical outcomes for COPD. Results: The common disease-specific outcome pipeline successfully downloaded and processed 3876 studies related to COPD. Manual verification indicated that the pipeline was downloading and processing the same number of trials as were obtained from the self-service portal. Evaluating the automatically identified outcomes against the manually abstracted ones showed that the pipeline achieved a recall of 92% and precision of 79%. The precision number indicated that the pipeline was identifying many outcomes that were not covered in the literature reviews. Assessment of those outcomes indicated that they are relevant to COPD and could be considered in future research. Conclusions: An automated evidence-based pipeline can identify common clinical trial outcomes of comparable breadth and quality as the outcomes identified in comprehensive literature reviews. Moreover, such an approach can highlight relevant outcomes for further consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere18298
JournalJMIR Medical Informatics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Clinical outcomes
  • Clinical trials
  • Common data elements
  • Data processing


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