Web-based newborn screening system for metabolic diseases: Machine learning versus clinicians

Wei Hsin Chen, Sheau Ling Hsieh*, Kai Ping Hsu, Han Ping Chen, Xing Yu Su, Yi Ju Tseng, Yin Hsiu Chien, Wuh Liang Hwu, Feipei Lai

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: A hospital information system (HIS) that integrates screening data and interpretation of the data is routinely requested by hospitals and parents. However, the accuracy of disease classification may be low because of the disease characteristics and the analytes used for classification. Objective: The objective of this study is to describe a system that enhanced the neonatal screening system of the Newborn Screening Center at the National Taiwan University Hospital. The system was designed and deployed according to a service-oriented architecture (SOA) framework under the Web services .NET environment. The system consists of sample collection, testing, diagnosis, evaluation, treatment, and follow-up services among collaborating hospitals. To improve the accuracy of newborn screening, machine learning and optimal feature selection mechanisms were investigated for screening newborns for inborn errors of metabolism. Methods: The framework of the Newborn Screening Hospital Information System (NSHIS) used the embedded Health Level Seven (HL7) standards for data exchanges among heterogeneous platforms integrated by Web services in the C# language. In this study, machine learning classification was used to predict phenylketonuria (PKU), hypermethioninemia, and 3-methylcrotonyl-CoA- carboxylase (3-MCC) deficiency. The classification methods used 347,312 newborn dried blood samples collected at the Center between 2006 and 2011. Of these, 220 newborns had values over the diagnostic cutoffs (positive cases) and 1557 had values that were over the screening cutoffs but did not meet the diagnostic cutoffs (suspected cases). The original 35 analytes and the manifested features were ranked based on F score, then combinations of the top 20 ranked features were selected as input features to support vector machine (SVM) classifiers to obtain optimal feature sets. These feature sets were tested using 5-fold cross-validation and optimal models were generated. The datasets collected in year 2011 were used as predicting cases. Results: The feature selection strategies were implemented and the optimal markers for PKU, hypermethioninemia, and 3-MCC deficiency were obtained. The results of the machine learning approach were compared with the cutoff scheme. The number of the false positive cases were reduced from 21 to 2 for PKU, from 30 to 10 for hypermethioninemia, and 209 to 46 for 3-MCC deficiency. Conclusions: This SOA Web service-based newborn screening system can accelerate screening procedures effectively and efficiently. An SVM learning methodology for PKU, hypermethioninemia, and 3-MCC deficiency metabolic diseases classification, including optimal feature selection strategies, is presented. By adopting the results of this study, the number of suspected cases could be reduced dramatically.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere98
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - 05 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Inborn errors
  • Information systems
  • Metabolism
  • Neonatal screening
  • Tandem mass spectrometry
  • Web-based services


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