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Investigating Non-Laboratory Variables to Predict Diabetic and Prediabetic Patients from Electronic Medical Records Using Machine Learning


Hamid Mukhtar and Sana Al Azwari


Vol. 21  No. 9  pp. 19-30


Diabetes Mellitus (DM) is one of common chronic diseases leading to severe health complications that may cause death. The disease influences individuals, community, and the government due to the continuous monitoring, lifelong commitment, and the cost of treatment. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers Saudi Arabia as one of the top 10 countries in diabetes prevalence across the world. Since most of the medical services are provided by the government, the cost of the treatment in terms of hospitals and clinical visits and lab tests represents a real burden due to the large scale of the disease. The ability to predict the diabetic status of a patient without the laboratory tests by performing screening based on some personal features can lessen the health and economic burden caused by diabetes alone. The goal of this paper is to investigate the prediction of diabetic and prediabetic patients by considering factors other than the laboratory tests, as required by physicians in general. With the data obtained from local hospitals, medical records were processed to obtain a dataset that classified patients into three classes: diabetic, prediabetic, and non-diabetic. After applying three machine learning algorithms, we established good performance for accuracy, precision, and recall of the models on the dataset. Further analysis was performed on the data to identify important non-laboratory variables related to the patients for diabetes classification. The importance of five variables (gender, physical activity level, hypertension, BMI, and age) from the person’s basic health data were investigated to find their contribution to the state of a patient being diabetic, prediabetic or normal. Our analysis presented great agreement with the risk factors of diabetes and prediabetes stated by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and other health institutions worldwide. We conclude that by performing class-specific analysis of the disease, important factors specific to Saudi population can be identified, whose management can result in controlling the disease. We also provide some recommendations learnt from this research.


prediabetics; prediction; feature importance; feature contribution; PIMA diabetes dataset.