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Predicting suicide attempts with electronic medical records

Posted on 05/03/2014
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Approximately half of people who take their own life have previously made a suicide attempt. People who survive are therefore at high risk of ending their own life later.
 
A new project, led by Dr Rina Dutta at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King’s College London, will aim to predict who is most at risk, and when, by analysing data from electronic medical records. Identifying warning signs may then allow healthcare professionals to intervene before a serious suicide attempt is made.

The project, called e-HOST-IT (Electronic health records to predict HOspitalised Suicide attempts: Targeting Information Technology), is being led by Dr Dutta, from the Department of Psychological Medicine at the IoP at King’s. The funding was awarded by the Academy of Medical Sciences, as a Clinician Scientist Fellowship.

Dr Dutta will use data from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s anonymised electronic mental health records system, CRIS, developed by the National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre for Mental Health at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London.

Dr Rina Dutta says: “What we know about why people make suicide attempts lags behind our understanding of other life-threatening problems.  One reason is stigma.  Studying risk factors in detail has also been difficult, because health records have been handwritten and kept in paper files.  Predicting who is most at risk and when is the riskiest time is a huge challenge.”

She adds: “The NHS aims to be paperless by 2018. Now is the ideal time to see whether warning signs of a serious suicide attempt could be picked up early using anonymised electronic medical records. These warning markers could be changes in symptoms, behaviours or healthcare service use, which happen before a suicide attempt.”

With help from Mind, Dr Dutta has actively involved patients in the design and planning of the research to ensure it is patient-centred. The aim of the project is that the information be used to help health professionals personalise care for people most at risk.  The long-term goal is that as professionals use the electronic records system in their day-to-day work, they will be directly alerted to high risk times for their patients.  Finally, Dr Dutta also aims to develop prevention strategies and self-management tools by feedback of patterns indicating risk to individual patients. 

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