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J R Stat Soc Ser C Appl Stat. 2011 Aug;60(4):575-589.

Percentile-based Empirical Distribution Function Estimates for Performance Evaluation of Healthcare Providers.

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  • 1RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California, 90401 U.S.A.


Hierarchical models are widely-used to characterize the performance of individual healthcare providers. However, little attention has been devoted to system-wide performance evaluations, the goals of which include identifying extreme (e.g., top 10%) provider performance and developing statistical benchmarks to define high-quality care. Obtaining optimal estimates of these quantities requires estimating the empirical distribution function (EDF) of provider-specific parameters that generate the dataset under consideration. However, the difficulty of obtaining uncertainty bounds for a square-error loss minimizing EDF estimate has hindered its use in system-wide performance evaluations. We therefore develop and study a percentile-based EDF estimate for univariate provider-specific parameters. We compute order statistics of samples drawn from the posterior distribution of provider-specific parameters to obtain relevant uncertainty assessments of an EDF estimate and its features, such as thresholds and percentiles. We apply our method to data from the Medicare End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program, a health insurance program for people with irreversible kidney failure. We highlight the risk of misclassifying providers as exceptionally good or poor performers when uncertainty in statistical benchmark estimates is ignored. Given the high stakes of performance evaluations, statistical benchmarks should be accompanied by precision estimates.

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