A concept-wide association study of clinical notes to discover new predictors of kidney failure

Karandeep Singh, Rebecca A. Betensky, Adam Wright, Gary C. Curhan, David W. Bates, Sushrut S. Waikar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and objectives Identifying predictors of kidney disease progression is critical toward the development of strategies to prevent kidney failure. Clinical notes provide a unique opportunity for big data approaches to identify novel risk factors for disease. Design, setting, participants, &measurements Weusednatural language processing tools to extract concepts from the preceding year’s clinical notes among patients newly referred to a tertiary care center’s outpatient nephrology clinics and retrospectively evaluated these concepts as predictors for the subsequent development of ESRD using proportional subdistribution hazards (competing risk) regression. The primary outcome was time to ESRD, accounting for a competing risk of death. We identified predictors from univariate and multivariate (adjusting for Tangri linear predictor) models using a5%threshold for falsediscovery rate (q value, 0.05).Weincluded allpatients seen by an adult outpatient nephrologist between January 1, 2004 and June 18, 2014 and excluded patients seen only by transplant nephrology, with preexisting ESRD, with fewer than five clinical notes, with no follow-up, or with no baseline creatinine values. Results Among the 4013 patients selected in the final study cohort, we identified 960 concepts in the unadjusted analysis and 885 concepts in the adjusted analysis. Novel predictors identified included high-dose ascorbic acid (adjusted hazard ratio, 5.48; 95%confidence interval, 2.80 to 10.70; q, 0.001) and fast food (adjusted hazard ratio, 4.34; 95% confidence interval, 2.55 to 7.40; q, 0.001). Conclusions Novel predictors of human disease may be identified using an unbiased approach to analyze text from the electronic health record.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2150-2158
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2016


  • Adult
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Creatinine
  • Disease Progression
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Electronic health record
  • End stage kidney disease
  • Fast foods
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Informatics
  • Kidney
  • Kidney Diseases
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Natural language processing
  • Nephrology
  • Outpatients
  • Renal Insufficiency
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk factors
  • Tertiary Care Centers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Nephrology
  • Transplantation


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