- Discover information and abstract about this Article
- Discover the Activity around this article
- Jan Wolff
- Ansgar Klimke
- Michael Marschollek
- Tim Kacprowski
The COVID-19 pandemic has strong effects on most health care systems and individual services providers. Forecasting of admissions can help for the efficient organisation of hospital care. We aimed to forecast the number of admissions to psychiatric hospitals before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and we compared the performance of machine learning models and time series models. This would eventually allow to support timely resource allocation for optimal treatment of patients.
We used admission data from 9 psychiatric hospitals in Germany between 2017 and 2020. We compared machine learning models with time series models in weekly, monthly and yearly forecasting before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our models were trained and validated with data from the first two years and tested in prospectively sliding time-windows in the last two years.
A total of 90,686 admissions were analysed. The models explained up to 90% of variance in hospital admissions in 2019 and 75% in 2020 with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The best models substantially outperformed a one-step seasonal naïve forecast (seasonal mean absolute scaled error (sMASE) 2019: 0.59, 2020: 0.76). The best model in 2019 was a machine learning model (elastic net, mean absolute error (MAE): 7.25). The best model in 2020 was a time series model (exponential smoothing state space model with Box-Cox transformation, ARMA errors and trend and seasonal components, MAE: 10.44), which adjusted more quickly to the shock effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Models forecasting admissions one week in advance did not perform better than monthly and yearly models in 2019 but they did in 2020. The most important features for the machine learning models were calendrical variables.
Model performance did not vary much between different modelling approaches before the COVID-19 pandemic and established forecasts were substantially better than one-step seasonal naïve forecasts. However, weekly time series models adjusted quicker to the COVID-19 related shock effects. In practice, different forecast horizons could be used simultaneously to allow both early planning and quick adjustments to external effects.