Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Street, W. N.

First Committee Member

Robinson, Jennifer G.

Second Committee Member

Delaney, Connie W.

Third Committee Member

Ward, Marcia M.

Fourth Committee Member

Srinivasan, Padmini

Fifth Committee Member

Burer, Samuel A.

Sixth Committee Member

Zhang, Ying


This dissertation discusses three problems from different areas of medical research and their machine learning solutions. Each solution is a distinct type of decision support system. They show three common properties: personalized healthcare decision support, reduction of the use of medical resources, and improvement of outcomes.

The first decision support system assists individual hospital selection. This system can help a user make the best decision in terms of the combination of mortality, complication, and travel distance. Both machine learning and optimization techniques are utilized in this type of decision support system. Machine learning methods, such as Support Vector Machines, learn a decision function. Next, the function is transformed into an objective function and then optimization methods are used to find the values of decision variables to reach the desired outcome with the most confidence.

The second decision support system assists diagnostic decisions in a sequential decision-making setting by finding the most promising tests and suggesting a diagnosis. The system can speed up the diagnostic process, reduce overuse of medical tests, save costs, and improve the accuracy of diagnosis. In this study, the system finds the test most likely to confirm a diagnosis based on the pre-test probability computed from the patient's information including symptoms and the results of previous tests. If the patient's disease post-test probability is higher than the treatment threshold, a diagnostic decision will be made, and vice versa. Otherwise, the patient needs more tests to help make a decision. The system will then recommend the next optimal test and repeat the same process.

The third decision support system recommends the best lifestyle changes for an individual to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). As in the hospital recommendation system, machine learning and optimization are combined to capture the relationship between lifestyle and CVD, and then generate recommendations based on individual factors including preference and physical condition. The results demonstrate several recommendation strategies: a whole plan of lifestyle changes, a package of n lifestyle changes, and the compensatory plan (the plan that compensates for unwanted lifestyle changes or real-world limitations).


decision support systems, diagnosis, expert systems, hospital quality, lifestyle, machine learning


xi, 118 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 111-118).


Copyright 2009 Chih-Lin Chi