AI algorithms used in precision medicine struggle to perform well with new, untrained data


  • AI algorithms designed for precision medicine struggle when faced with new and untrained data.
  • Initial AI model performance is strong when tested on the data they were trained on.
  • Performance significantly deteriorates when applied to subsets of the original data or entirely different datasets.
  • Clinical prediction models in healthcare must be rigorously tested on large datasets to ensure reliability.
  • Only about 20% of psychiatric prediction models have undergone validation on samples distinct from their training data.

Main AI News:

In the realm of healthcare, artificial intelligence (AI) has become an indispensable tool, particularly in the domain of precision medicine. These AI algorithms are designed to analyze extensive datasets, identify patterns, and predict how individuals will respond to specific treatments. However, a recent study reveals a concerning shortcoming in the performance of these algorithms when faced with new and untrained data.

Published in Science on January 11th, this study underscores the critical role of AI models in healthcare. Initially, these models demonstrate exceptional accuracy in predicting treatment outcomes when tested on the data they were originally trained on. However, their performance dramatically falters when applied to subsets of the original data or entirely different datasets.

Precision medicine hinges on the ability to consistently and accurately predict treatment outcomes across various cases, devoid of bias or arbitrary results. “It’s a huge problem that people have not woken up to,” says Dr. Adam Chekroud, a co-author of the study and a psychiatrist at Yale University. “This study essentially provides irrefutable evidence that algorithms must undergo testing on multiple samples.”

The researchers scrutinized an algorithm widely used in psychiatric prediction models. Leveraging data from five clinical trials involving 1,513 schizophrenia patients across multiple continents, they examined the algorithm’s performance in predicting symptom improvements after four weeks of antipsychotic treatment. Initial tests within the trials it was developed for revealed high accuracy.

However, the true test came when the algorithm was evaluated on novel data. When applied to a different dataset or subset that it had not been trained on, the algorithm produced predictions that appeared almost random. The experiment was repeated with a different prediction algorithm, yielding similar results.

The implications of these findings are clear: clinical prediction models, much like drug development, must undergo rigorous testing on large datasets to ensure their reliability. A systematic review of 308 clinical prediction models for psychiatric outcomes found that only about 20% of these models underwent validation on samples distinct from their training data.

Dr. Chekroud emphasizes the importance of disciplined algorithm development and testing, stating, “We can’t just do it once and think it’s real.” The future of precision medicine relies on AI algorithms that can consistently and accurately adapt to new and diverse datasets, ultimately improving patient care and outcomes.


The challenges highlighted in adapting AI for precision medicine underscore the importance of rigorous testing and validation of clinical prediction models. Healthcare professionals and AI developers must prioritize thorough examination to ensure that these algorithms can reliably adapt to new and diverse datasets. This emphasis on robustness is crucial for maintaining trust in AI-driven healthcare solutions and their successful integration into the market.