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J Clin Epidemiol. 2008 Mar;61(3):232-240. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2007.04.017. Epub 2007 Oct 23.

Use of the false discovery rate when comparing multiple health care providers.

Author information

  • 1MRC Biostatistics Unit, Institute of Public Health, Robinson Way, Cambridge CB2 2SR, UK. hayley.jones@mrc-bsu.cam.ac.uk

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Comparisons of the performance of multiple health care providers are often based on hypothesis tests, those with resulting P-values below some critical threshold being identified as potentially extreme. Because of the multiple testing involved, the classical P-value threshold of, say, 0.05 may not be considered strict enough, as it will tend to lead to too many "false positives." However, we argue that the commonly used Bonferroni-corrected threshold is in general too strict for the problem in hand. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate a suitable alternative thresholding procedure that is already well established in other fields.

STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING:

The suggested procedure involves control of an error measure called the "false discovery rate" (FDR). We present a worked example involving a comparison of risk-adjusted mortality rates following heart surgery in New York State hospitals during 2000-2002. It is shown that the FDR critical threshold lines can be drawn on a "funnel plot," providing a simple graphical presentation of the results.

RESULTS:

The FDR procedure identified more providers as potentially extreme than the Bonferroni correction, while maintaining control of an intuitively sensible error measure.

CONCLUSION:

Control of the FDR offers a simple guideline to determining where to draw critical thresholds when comparing multiple health care providers.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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