Predicting Dropouts From an Electronic Health Platform for Lifestyle Interventions: Analysis of Methods and Predictors

Daniel Hansen Pedersen, Marjan Mansourvar, Camilla Sortsø, Thomas Schmidt

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BACKGROUND: The increasing prevalence and economic impact of chronic diseases challenge health care systems globally. Digital solutions can potentially improve efficiency and quality of care, but these initiatives struggle with nonusage attrition. Machine learning methods have been proven to predict dropouts in other settings but lack implementation in health care. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to gain insight into the causes of attrition for patients in an electronic health (eHealth) intervention for chronic lifestyle diseases and evaluate if attrition can be predicted and consequently prevented. We aimed to build predictive models that can identify patients in a digital lifestyle intervention at high risk of dropout by analyzing several predictor variables applied in different models and to further assess the possibilities and impact of implementing such models into an eHealth platform. METHODS: Data from 2684 patients using an eHealth platform were iteratively analyzed using logistic regression, decision trees, and random forest models. The dataset was split into a 79.99% (2147/2684) training and cross-validation set and a 20.0% (537/2684) holdout test set. Trends in activity patterns were analyzed to assess engagement over time. Development and implementation were performed iteratively with health coaches. RESULTS: Patients in the test dataset were classified as dropouts with an 89% precision using a random forest model and 11 predictor variables. The most significant predictors were the provider of the intervention, 2 weeks inactivity, and the number of advices received from the health coach. Engagement in the platform dropped significantly leading up to the time of dropout. CONCLUSIONS: Dropouts from eHealth lifestyle interventions can be predicted using various data mining methods. This can support health coaches in preventing attrition by receiving proactive warnings. The best performing predictive model was found to be the random forest.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13617
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number9
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 4. Sep 2019


  • adherence
  • chronic disease
  • data mining
  • decision trees
  • digital health
  • eHealth
  • law of attrition
  • logistic regression
  • patient dropouts

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