Background: Surgical patients are complex, vulnerable, and prone to postoperative complications that can potentially be mitigated with quality perioperative risk assessment and management. Several institutions have incorporated machine learning (ML) into their patient care to improve awareness and support clinician decision-making along the perioperative spectrum. Recent research suggests that ML risk prediction can support perioperative patient risk monitoring and management across several situations, including the operating room (OR) to intensive care unit (ICU) handoffs. Objectives: Our study objectives were threefold: (1) evaluate whether ML-generated postoperative predictions are concordant with clinician-generated risk rankings for acute kidney injury, delirium, pneumonia, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism, and establish their associated risk factors; (2) ascertain clinician end-user suggestions to improve adoption of ML-generated risks and their integration into the perioperative workflow; and (3) develop a user-friendly visualization format for a tool to display ML-generated risks and risk factors to support postoperative care planning, for example, within the context of OR-ICU handoffs. Methods: Graphical user interfaces for postoperative risk prediction models were assessed for end-user usability through cognitive walkthroughs and interviews with anesthesiologists, surgeons, certified registered nurse anesthetists, registered nurses, and critical care physicians. Thematic analysis relying on an explanation design framework was used to identify feedback and suggestions for improvement. Results: 17 clinicians participated in the evaluation. ML estimates of complication risks aligned with clinicians' independent rankings, and related displays were perceived as valuable for decision-making and care planning for postoperative care. During OR-ICU handoffs, the tool could speed up report preparation and remind clinicians to address patient-specific complications, thus providing more tailored care information. Suggestions for improvement centered on electronic tool delivery; methods to build trust in ML models; modifiable risks and risk mitigation strategies; and additional patient information based on individual preferences (e.g., surgical procedure). Conclusions: ML estimates of postoperative complication risks can provide anticipatory guidance, potentially increasing the efficiency of care planning. We have offered an ML visualization framework for designing future ML-augmented tools and anticipate the development of tools that recommend specific actions to the user based on ML model output. Statement of Significance. • Problem: Implementation of machine-learning (ML) output within clinical workflows is not trivial. • What is already known: Barriers to ML implementation and appropriate use within clinical workflows include clinicians’ limited understanding of ML, wariness of ML output, and lack of ML output actionability. • What this paper adds: Qualitative end-user evaluation of postoperative risk predictions found high-levels of agreement between rankings of clinicians' manual risk rankings and ML-augmented risk estimates. The evaluation also highlighted design (functional and visual) enhancements for translational implementation of ML models within clinical workflows.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104270
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Complications
  • Critical Care
  • Surgery


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