Using machine learning to predict blood culture outcomes in the emergency department: A single-centre, retrospective, observational study

Anneroos W. Boerman, Michiel Schinkel, Lotta Meijerink, Eva S. van den Ende, Lara Ca Pladet, Martijn G. Scholtemeijer, Joost Zeeuw, Anuschka Y. van der Zaag, Tanca C. Minderhoud, Paul W. G. Elbers, W. Joost Wiersinga, Robert de Jonge, Mark Hh Kramer, Prabath W. B. Nanayakkara

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Objectives To develop predictive models for blood culture (BC) outcomes in an emergency department (ED) setting. Design Retrospective observational study. Setting ED of a large teaching hospital in the Netherlands between 1 September 2018 and 24 June 2020. Participants Adult patients from whom BCs were collected in the ED. Data of demographic information, vital signs, administered medications in the ED and laboratory and radiology results were extracted from the electronic health record, if available at the end of the ED visits. Main outcome measures The primary outcome was the performance of two models (logistic regression and gradient boosted trees) to predict bacteraemia in ED patients, defined as at least one true positive BC collected at the ED. Results In 4885 out of 51 399 ED visits (9.5%), BCs were collected. In 598/4885 (12.2%) visits, at least one of the BCs was true positive. Both a gradient boosted tree model and a logistic regression model showed good performance in predicting BC results with area under curve of the receiver operating characteristics of 0.77 (95% CI 0.73 to 0.82) and 0.78 (95% CI 0.73 to 0.82) in the test sets, respectively. In the gradient boosted tree model, the optimal threshold would predict 69% of BCs in the test set to be negative, with a negative predictive value of over 94%. Conclusions Both models can accurately identify patients with low risk of bacteraemia at the ED in this single-centre setting and may be useful to reduce unnecessary BCs and associated healthcare costs. Further studies are necessary for validation and to investigate the potential clinical benefits and possible risks after implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere053332
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2022


  • accident & emergency medicine
  • diagnostic microbiology
  • internal medicine

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