Using Supervised Machine Learning to Classify Real Alerts and Artifact in Online Multisignal Vital Sign Monitoring Data*

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The use of machine-learning algorithms to classify alerts as real or artifacts in online noninvasive vital sign data streams to reduce alarm fatigue and missed true instability.


Observational cohort study.


Twenty-four–bed trauma step-down unit.


Two thousand one hundred fifty-three patients.


Noninvasive vital sign monitoring data (heart rate, respiratory rate, peripheral oximetry) recorded on all admissions at 1/20 Hz, and noninvasive blood pressure less frequently, and partitioned data into training/validation (294 admissions; 22,980 monitoring hours) and test sets (2,057 admissions; 156,177 monitoring hours). Alerts were vital sign deviations beyond stability thresholds. A four-member expert committee annotated a subset of alerts (576 in training/validation set, 397 in test set) as real or artifact selected by active learning, upon which we trained machine-learning algorithms. The best model was evaluated on test set alerts to enact online alert classification over time.

Measurements and Main Results:

The Random Forest model discriminated between real and artifact as the alerts evolved online in the test set with area under the curve performance of 0.79 (95% CI, 0.67–0.93) for peripheral oximetry at the instant the vital sign first crossed threshold and increased to 0.87 (95% CI, 0.71–0.95) at 3 minutes into the alerting period. Blood pressure area under the curve started at 0.77 (95% CI, 0.64–0.95) and increased to 0.87 (95% CI, 0.71–0.98), whereas respiratory rate area under the curve started at 0.85 (95% CI, 0.77–0.95) and increased to 0.97 (95% CI, 0.94–1.00). Heart rate alerts were too few for model development.


Machine-learning models can discern clinically relevant peripheral oximetry, blood pressure, and respiratory rate alerts from artifacts in an online monitoring dataset (area under the curve > 0.87).

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