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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 21;8(6):e66812. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0066812. Print 2013.

An Agent-Based Modeling Template for a Cohort of Veterans with Diabetic Retinopathy.

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Health Services Research and Development, VA St. Louis Healthcare System, St. Louis, Missouri, United States of America.



Agent-based models are valuable for examining systems where large numbers of discrete individuals interact with each other, or with some environment. Diabetic Veterans seeking eye care at a Veterans Administration hospital represent one such cohort.


The objective of this study was to develop an agent-based template to be used as a model for a patient with diabetic retinopathy (DR). This template may be replicated arbitrarily many times in order to generate a large cohort which is representative of a real-world population, upon which in-silico experimentation may be conducted.


Agent-based template development was performed in java-based computer simulation suite AnyLogic Professional 6.6. The model was informed by medical data abstracted from 535 patient records representing a retrospective cohort of current patients of the VA St. Louis Healthcare System Eye clinic. Logistic regression was performed to determine the predictors associated with advancing stages of DR. Predicted probabilities obtained from logistic regression were used to generate the stage of DR in the simulated cohort.


The simulated cohort of DR patients exhibited no significant deviation from the test population of real-world patients in proportion of stage of DR, duration of diabetes mellitus (DM), or the other abstracted predictors. Simulated patients after 10 years were significantly more likely to exhibit proliferative DR (P<0.001).


Agent-based modeling is an emerging platform, capable of simulating large cohorts of individuals based on manageable data abstraction efforts. The modeling method described may be useful in simulating many different conditions where course of disease is described in categorical stages.

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