Bell Eapen

eHealth and Information System Research

How to create a Neural Network model for business in 10 minutes

Neural Network and deep-learning are the buzzwords lately. Machine learning has been in vogue for some time, but the easy availability of storage and processing power has made it popular. The interest is palpable in business schools as well. The ML related techniques have not percolated much from the IT departments to business, but everybody seems to be interested. So, let us build a Neural Network model in 10 minutes.

Computer Programming

This is the scenario:

You have a collection of independent variables (IV) that predict a dependent variable (DV). You have a theoretical model and want to know if it is good enough. Remember, we are not testing the model. We are just checking how good the IVs are in predicting DV. If they are not good predictors to start with, why waste time conjuring a fancy model! Sounds familiar? Let’s get started.


Do you have some preliminary knowledge of python? If not spend another 10 minutes here learning python. Now you have to spend some time to set up your system once. Just follow these instructions.


The first step is to import few modules. If you don’t know what these are, just copy paste and ignore. Consider them as a header that you require.

Create a CSV file with your data with the last column as your DV. Now import that file.

nrows and ncols are the numbers of rows and columns. Now separate DV (y) from IVs (X) as below.

In most cases, you will be trying to predict a rare event. So add some oversampling for taste 🙂

Create, compile and fit the model.

The three model.add statements represent the three layers in Neural Network. The number after Dense is the number of neurons in each layer. You can play with these values a bit. These settings should work in most business cases. Read this for more information.

Now evaluate the model.

Put this code in a file (say and use it as below.


Just use QRMine. is in there.

Operationalizing Neural Network models

Shortly, I will show you how to operationalize a model using flask.

ASP.NET Core 1: Some useful code snippets

ASP.NET Core is Microsoft’s answer to open source web development platforms. Probably it was inevitable as they realize the futility of fighting the open source ecosystem with the ever growing popularity of node, npm, and bower. If you can’t beat them, join them 🙂eHealth Programmer Girl

Most healthcare organizations in Canada still use the Microsoft products and hence ASP.NET Core may be a good platform to build business applications. As it is platform agnostic, you can deploy it on Linux, if things change in the future (Yes, It is possible with Core). Of late I have been working on an ASP.Net Core project (an intranet portal) and would like to share some code snippets that may be useful to others.

If you need to export the CRUD Index (list) as .csv, here is a useful resource from @damienbod

The implementation of the InputFormatter and the OutputFormatter classes are specific for a list of simple classes with only properties. If you have more complex classes, map only the properties that you need to serialize as below:

I could not find any good reference to implement multiple file upload. The Microsoft’s documentation in this instance was unfortunately not very clear:

Here is my improvisation:

Hope this helps.

How to visualize PKPD models

PKPD Visualization

Image credit: Farmacist at ro.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons. (Image altered and text added)

A couple of my friends asked me about ideas for PKPD visualization for their projects. I am not a PKPD expert, but I have tried to organize some of the tools for this purpose that I have found during my search. Maybe it will help someone to avoid reinventing the wheel.

First a brief introduction to the problem as I understand:

Pharmacokinetics (PK) is what the body does to the drug (elimination or redistribution). Pharmacodynamics (PD) is what the drug does to the body (Its effect). PKPD models conceptually link both into a composite time-effect graph. Calculations associated with this conceptual linking can be quite complicated, but computers simplify this considerably.

Now a brief consideration of the variables in this calculation, again as I understand.

The calculation depends on elimination process, number of compartments, route and the regimen of drug administration.

You need clearance rate (CL), the volume of compartments V1…V3 and the intercompartmental clearance (Q1 & Q2).

A PKPD model can be described as systems of ordinary differential equations in PharmML for the number of compartments and the route of administration.

Now to the emerging concept of population pharmacokinetics:

In the above model, individual variations are not taken into account. You can calculate between-subject variability matrix if you have enough data available from various sources.

Now to the visualization options:

Visualization is important for patients to understand the need for dosage requirements in life threatening conditions like haemophilia and for doctors to plan appropriate dosage regimens.

PKPDSim by Ron Keizer (UCSF) – This is an R library that also provides a model exploration tool that dynamically generates a Shiny app from the specified model and parameters. ODEs for One, two and three model for various routes of administration is available in the library. Custom ODEs and between-subject variability can be defined. Shiny allows interactive exploration of the model, and it also generates the R code for any plot created in the interface. Shiny is R’s web application framework that turns your analyses into interactive web applications.

The example code to run shiny after installing all dependencies is below:


Simulx: (A R function of the mlxR package for computing predictions and sampling longitudinal data from Mlxtran and PharmML models.). Details are available on their website: Here is a PKPD example for warfarin. Simulx also supports interactive visualization through Shiny

Plotly is an innovative Canadian startup founded by Alex Johnson, Chris Parmer, Jack Parmer, and Matt Sundquist headquartered in Montreal, Quebec. Plotly is an online analytics and data visualization tool that has a variety of tools such as API libraries for various programming languages, and a javascript library. Plotly may be the ideal tool for fast visualization of PKPD data.

To sum up:

R libraries and hosted shiny applications may be ideal for physician level PKPD interface. plotly may be ideal for prototyping patient education tools that can be later converted into a web application using the various APIs.

P.S. Shiny example for PKPDsim is not functional at the time of writing. Ron has promised to fix it soon.

Phonegap and AppPharmacy – Just what the doctor ordered!

Phonegap for mHealth

Image credit: Unsplash@pixabay

Health Care is getting swathed in mobility and mHealth. Though the term is not yet adequately defined, mHealth is the new buzzword. mHealth, unlike many other eHealth specialities, has provider/doctor and consumer/patient aspects. This dual nature helps mHealth to be instrumental in improving the quality of care delivery and patient empowerment. mHealth will also play a major role in population health.

With more than 100,000 mobile Apps available for download from Google play and Apple App store, it is difficult for consumers to choose what may be of benefit to them. It is hardly surprising that only a handful of these 100,000 apps is being used in a meaningful way. Very soon, apps may make their foray into a doctor’s prescription. There may even be App-Pharmacists who would create/reconstitute and dispense an app that the doctor ordered. Custom made apps may also be needed for clinical trials in population health such as HOPE-4 of PHRI.

The App-Pharmacists must be able to prototype an app within a short time with a highly ‘agile’ software development cycle. This article is an introduction to ‘phonegap’, which I believe would be the ideal tool for the App-Pharmacists of tomorrow. A basic idea of phonegap would help eHealth professionals to evaluate the opportunities and limitations of this platform!

Healthcare apps could be Web apps, Hybrid Apps or Native Apps. Web apps are just responsive websites that fit the mobile device well, using any of the frameworks such as jQuery mobile. Obviously it is the easiest to build and maintain, but it cannot access mobile specific features such as camera and GPS. If the app is used only to display information (as in ClinicalConnect™) this is the best solution.

Hybrid apps are packaged in a full-screen browser to resemble a native mobile app, with extensions that provide access to some hardware features, but your user interface is still written in HTML/CSS and rendered by a web browser. Phonegap is a popular framework to create hybrid apps. Phonegap was initially called Cordova after a street in Vancouver where the parent company Nitobi was based.  Adobe bought phonegap and licensed it under Apache. Though you don’t generally associate open-source with Adobe, phonegap for all practical purposes remains free and (hopefully) will remain so in the future.

So why should you use phonegap?

  1. It is free.
  2. Nothing new to learn, You program in HTML, CSS and javascript.
  3. Compile in the cloud (Free if your project is on github and open-source!)
  4. Fast prototyping with basic debugging in the browser.
  5. Fast build cycle, with a single interface for all major platforms.

Where can you get Phonegap?
Get it here:

OR install using npm

You may have to revert the ownership of .npm folder back to the user after global install.


Want to see a simple, but working project to learn fast?
Try my Charm!:
Want to know about Charm?:

Do you want a step by step tutorial on how to start using phonegap. Please comment below!

Not happy with phonegap? Will discuss Titanium soon!

GIT for doctors (Part 3) – stash, branch, merge, rebase and tag

To continue with our git story: Read the full series on GIT for doctors here

If you think you have made a mistake, you can “stash” the changes. Your file will be returned to the previous state. You have the option of returning to the stash if needed, but this is beyond our scope at present.

Now let us consider another scenario: You have two differential diagnosis for your patient and you want to investigate the patient for both conditions. You may decide to keep two versions of the same case sheet to continue the work up on both differentials. In Git you can create a “branch” for this situation. You can work on branches independently. The main branch or the trunk is called “master” by convention. You can give any name for the other branches.

Embiodea (Photo credit: beapen)

If you decide to consult your colleague, he/she may want to continue working on their copy without changing the “master” file in your possession. So they can work on their “branches” too. Later on if you want to add your differential branch or your colleague’s branch into the master file, you can choose “merge”.

You can create branches of branches. If you want to merge several such branches into the “master”, you have to paste all branches together into a single branch. This is called “rebase”.

If you have to submit a master chart for audit, you can “tag” the chart, so that you can give a name to the current state. “Tagging” for software is generally done when you decide to release a version to the end user.

In the next part, I will discuss how to collaborate with your friends. If you are not on as yet, do register for an account now. If you want to follow someone, let me suggest yours truly:

Read the full series on GIT for doctors here

Facebook and Ajax

Christmas pudding decorated with skimmia rathe...
Christmas pudding decorated with skimmia rather than holly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the last day of my Christmas break and the winter term will officially start tomorrow. I did use my break in a productive way as I mentioned in my post last week. To continue with my exploration, I found out two more things the hard way. So I thought I would share it here so that you guys can probably save some time.

I decided to learn how to make a facebook app. So I registered for a developer account and got my AppID and secret key. I made a word game in php for dermatology and decided to port it to the facebook canvas. The facebook interface asked for the normal application URL and the https URL. Near the https field, it is mentioned that https is a requirement from Oct 11th onwards. Since it is only the beginning of 2014 with a good 10 months to October, I decided to leave the https blank. The form submission was accepted without any problems and I was given a new ‘blank’ canvas.

Despite my best efforts at debugging, the canvas remained perpetually blank. After hours of googling, I found out the bitter truth. The October 11 is not Oct 2014, but Oct 2011 and is over 2 years back! So facebook needs a secure https URL for displaying external apps in the facebook canvas and it is mandatory for the last 2 years. I have no complaints about facebook’s security policies and probably this is a good thing. But why the Oct 11 is still mentioned there without the year, and why the form is getting validated without an https url still!!

The other thing I found out the hard way was the (simple fact 🙂 ) that: Ajax is basically javascript obeying the Same-origin policy. Your backend php script (or any other script) should be on the same server. Again no complaints, but……

Here is my DermGame who could never make it to the facebook, but got a facelift with Ajax. Sorry for the mangled interface and template.

Deploying Java applications with embedded derby database

Ruby on Rails
Ruby on Rails (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been trying to brush up my programming skills during the christmas break. I recently added the tagline “Dermatologist who codes” to my elevator speech. My plan is to sharpen my java skills and to learn python and ruby on rails. I believe coding real world applications is the best way to learn/sharpen any programming language.

Here is the first innovative application, Dermatology Image Tagger that I made. I believe this would be quite useful to dermatologists for organizing clinical images. Afterwards I made a simple java database application for a colleague. I never explored the deployment of java applications before. I hit google to find useful resources, but found only very few. The one I found most useful was Aparna’s blog. Here she succinctly explains how to use the Java embedded derby database. The only thing I had to figure out the hard way was to use the connection string as below to force creation of the database in the working directory. I also added a ‘create table’ button for initial deployment.

 String host = “jdbc:derby:imfdb;create=true”;
            String uName = “your_username”;
            String uPass= “your_password”;
            con = DriverManager.getConnection(host, uName, uPass);
            stmt = con.createStatement();

She has also written an very useful article on deploying java desktop applications. I followed her instructions to package all required files into a single executable jar file for Mac and an exe file for windows. I have used this for DIT. Thanks Aparna for making life easy for me!

Pink in honor of breast cancer awareness programs
Pink in honor of breast cancer awareness programs (Photo credit: beapen)

I am still exploring python and Ruby on Rails. So far I have been really impressed by the way Ruby on Rails managed to make web application development intuitive. I also learnt git for version tracking and joined github. I have added few learning projects for python and RoR that may be useful applications if developed properly. Feel free to fork, watch or star them and if you are on github too, a follow will not hurt.

So this will be my last post for 2013. Will meet you all again in 2014.

Running Tomcat as www-data

For last couple of days I have been working on a web based application for skin color measurement as I blogged here. The core of the application is implemented in php as it is much easier to handle. (May be I am more comfortable with it). But the GD image library for php has limited functionality. So I had to rely on Java for border detection and segmentation. So I implemented part of the functionality as a servlet running on tomcat6.

Today's latte, Apache Tomcat.
Today’s latte, Apache Tomcat. (Photo credit: yukop)

Both php and servlet had to read and write same files. But standard configuration does not allow this as php creates files as www-data (apache user) and tomcat creates files as tomcat6 user. I searched the internet for solutions. One suggestion was to create an appropriate umask for both which I could never completely understand. Finally I realised that the easiest solution is to make tomcat run as user www-data so that all created files will have same ownership.

I found this webpage with detailed instructions on how to do this. I would like to add two more steps:
1. Edit /etc/init.d/tomcat6 also to add the user ID and group ID
2. chown var/cache/tomcat6 directory also.

Nina Jablonski - The Evolution of Human Skin Color
Nina Jablonski – The Evolution of Human Skin Color (Photo credit: wagnerfreeinstitute)

BTW the application is hosted on my laptop. If you want to check it out click on the banner below if you see it. You will see it only when my laptop is on.