Susceptibility of AutoML mortality prediction algorithms to model drift caused by the COVID pandemic

Simone Maria Kagerbauer, Bernhard Ulm, Armin Horst Podtschaske, Dimislav Ivanov Andonov, Manfred Blobner, Bettina Jungwirth, Martin Graessner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Concept drift and covariate shift lead to a degradation of machine learning (ML) models. The objective of our study was to characterize sudden data drift as caused by the COVID pandemic. Furthermore, we investigated the suitability of certain methods in model training to prevent model degradation caused by data drift. Methods: We trained different ML models with the H2O AutoML method on a dataset comprising 102,666 cases of surgical patients collected in the years 2014–2019 to predict postoperative mortality using preoperatively available data. Models applied were Generalized Linear Model with regularization, Default Random Forest, Gradient Boosting Machine, eXtreme Gradient Boosting, Deep Learning and Stacked Ensembles comprising all base models. Further, we modified the original models by applying three different methods when training on the original pre-pandemic dataset: (Rahmani K, et al, Int J Med Inform 173:104930, 2023) we weighted older data weaker, (Morger A, et al, Sci Rep 12:7244, 2022) used only the most recent data for model training and (Dilmegani C, 2023) performed a z-transformation of the numerical input parameters. Afterwards, we tested model performance on a pre-pandemic and an in-pandemic data set not used in the training process, and analysed common features. Results: The models produced showed excellent areas under receiver-operating characteristic and acceptable precision-recall curves when tested on a dataset from January-March 2020, but significant degradation when tested on a dataset collected in the first wave of the COVID pandemic from April-May 2020. When comparing the probability distributions of the input parameters, significant differences between pre-pandemic and in-pandemic data were found. The endpoint of our models, in-hospital mortality after surgery, did not differ significantly between pre- and in-pandemic data and was about 1% in each case. However, the models varied considerably in the composition of their input parameters. None of our applied modifications prevented a loss of performance, although very different models emerged from it, using a large variety of parameters. Conclusions: Our results show that none of our tested easy-to-implement measures in model training can prevent deterioration in the case of sudden external events. Therefore, we conclude that, in the presence of concept drift and covariate shift, close monitoring and critical review of model predictions are necessary.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • AutoML
  • COVID-19
  • Concept drift
  • Covariate shift
  • Data shift
  • Model deterioration


Dive into the research topics of 'Susceptibility of AutoML mortality prediction algorithms to model drift caused by the COVID pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this