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Med Decis Making. 2014 Feb;34(2):192-205. doi: 10.1177/0272989X13498825. Epub 2013 Aug 6.

Performance profiling in primary care: does the choice of statistical model matter?

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  • 1Institute of Health Policy and Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.



Profiling is increasingly being used to generate input for improvement efforts in health care. For these efforts to be successful, profiles must reflect true provider performance, requiring an appropriate statistical model. Sophisticated models are available to account for the specific features of performance data, but they may be difficult to use and explain to providers.


To assess the influence of the statistical model on the performance profiles of primary care providers. Data Source. Administrative data (2006–2008) on 2.8 million members of a Dutch health insurer who were registered with 1 of 4396 general practitioners.


Profiles are constructed for 6 quality measures and 5 resource use measures, controlling for differences in case mix. Models include ordinary least squares, generalized linear models, and multilevel models. Separately for each model, providers are ranked on z scores and classified as outlier if belonging to the 10% with the worst or best performance. The impact of the model is evaluated using the weighted kappa for rankings overall, percentage agreement on outlier designation, and changes in rankings over time.


Agreement among models was relatively high overall (kappa typically .0.85). Agreement on outlier designation was more variable and often below 80%, especially for high outliers. Rankings were more similar for processes than for outcomes and expenses. Agreement among annual rankings per model was low for all models.


Differences among models were relatively small, but the choice of statistical model did affect the rankings. In addition, most measures appear to be driven largely by chance, regardless of the model that is used. Profilers should pay careful attention to the choice of both the statistical model and the performance measures.


econometric methods; managed care; performance measures; profiling; report cards; risk adjustment

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