Google Research

User-centred design for machine learning in health care: a case study from care management

  • Birju Patel
  • Daniel Lopez-martinez
  • Doris Wong
  • Eric Loreaux
  • Janjri Desai
  • Jonas Beachey Kemp
  • Jonathan Chen
  • Lance Downing
  • Laura Marie Vardoulakis
  • Lutz Thomas Finger
  • Martin Gamunu Seneviratne
  • Meredith Schreier
  • Ming-Jun Chen
  • Nigam Shah
  • Ron Li
BMJ Health & Care Informatics (2022)


Objectives: Few machine learning (ML) models are successfully deployed in clinical practice. One of the common pitfalls across the field is inappropriate problem formulation: designing ML to fit the data rather than to address a real-world clinical pain point.

Methods: We introduce a practical toolkit for user-centred design consisting of four questions covering: (1) solvable pain points, (2) the unique value of ML (eg, automation and augmentation), (3) the actionability pathway and (4) the model’s reward function. This toolkit was implemented in a series of six participatory design workshops with care managers in an academic medical centre.

Results: Pain points amenable to ML solutions included outpatient risk stratification and risk factor identification. The endpoint definitions, triggering frequency and evaluation metrics of the proposed risk scoring model were directly influenced by care manager workflows and real-world constraints.

Conclusions: Integrating user-centred design early in the ML life cycle is key for configuring models in a clinically actionable way. This toolkit can guide problem selection and influence choices about the technical setup of the ML problem.

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