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Machine Learning Approaches to Improve Outcomes and Management of Pediatric Asthma

May 23, 2022

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Division of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine researcher Erick Forno, MD, MPH, ATSF, was awarded a pilot grant from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute at the University of Pittsburgh that will explore the use of machine learning methods to help improve outcomes in pediatric asthma.

Dr. Forno is the director of the UPMC Children’s Pediatric Asthma Center. Ying Ding, PhD, associate professor from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biostatistics, will be co-principal investigator for the project. The grant is part of the University of Pittsburgh’s Public Health Transdisciplinary Collaboration Pilot Awards, which are designed to improve precision public health and address public health concerns exacerbated by the threat of climate change through collaborative, cross disciplinary studies.

Study Overview and Aims

Asthma affects more than 5.2 million children in the US. The main drivers of pediatric asthma morbidity in the country are emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations (over 760,000 and 74,000 per year, respectively). Early identification of subpopulations at high risk for severe exacerbations, and understanding the factors that contribute to worse outcomes, are crucial to improve asthma surveillance and management.

The main objective of Dr. Ding and Dr. Forno’s pilot study is to apply machine learning methods to analyze pediatric asthma electronic health record (EHR) data to identify subgroups of individuals at high risk and to help improve clinical outcomes while also aiming to reduce asthma disparities of care in vulnerable and population. Drs. Ding and Forno will utilize the comprehensive asthma dashboard at UPMC Children’s, a database that includes EHR information from more than 12,000 unique patients and which constitutes a real-world, real-time resource for examining and addressing challenges and unmet needs in managing childhood asthma.

The team will work to identify subgroups of patients with worse asthma outcomes, such as more frequent visits to the emergency department, hospitalizations, readmissions, and other measures to characterize the key factors that contribute to the observed heterogeneity. 

Additionally, Drs. Ding and Forno will assess the direct impact of COVID-19 disease on acute care for childhood asthma while also characterizing subpopulations of children who have suffered more significant impact from the ongoing pandemic.

Learn more about Dr. Forno and his research, and the Pediatric Asthma Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.