Translating clinical notes into quantitative measures—a real-world observation on the response to cholinesterase inhibitors or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors prescribed to outpatients with dementia using electronic medical records
Objective: Cholinesterase inhibitors (CEIs) are prescribed for dementia to maintain or improve memory. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are also prescribed to manage psychiatric symptoms seen in dementia. What proportion of outpatients actually responds to these drugs is still unclear. Our objective was to investigate the responder rates of these medications in an outpatient setting using the electronic medical record (EMR). Methods: We used the Johns Hopkins EMR system to identify patients with dementia who were prescribed a CEI or SSRI for the first time between 2010 and 2021. Treatment effects were assessed through routinely documented clinical notes and free-text entries in which healthcare providers record clinical findings and impressions of patients. Responses were scored using a three-point Likert scale named the NOte-based evaluation method for Treatment Efficacy (NOTE) in addition to the Clinician’s Interview-Based Impression of Change Plus caregiver input (CIBIC-plus), a seven-point Likert scale used in clinical trials. To validate NOTE, the relationships between NOTE and CIBIC-plus and between NOTE and change in MMSE (Mini-Mental State Examination) before and after medication were examined. Inter-rater reliability was evaluated using Krippendorff’s alpha. The responder rates were calculated. Results: NOTE showed excellent inter-rater reliability and correlated well with CIBIC-plus and changes in MMSEs. Out of 115 CEI cases, 27.0% reported improvement and 34.8% reported stable symptoms in cognition; out of 225 SSRI cases, 69.3% reported an improvement in neuropsychiatric symptoms. Conclusion: NOTE showed high validity in measuring the pharmacotherapy effects based on unstructured clinical entries. Although our real-world observation included various types of dementia, the results were remarkably similar to what was reported in controlled clinical trials of Alzheimer’s disease and its related neuropsychiatric symptoms.