Send to

Choose Destination
Med Decis Making. 2016 Nov;36(8):927-40. doi: 10.1177/0272989X15605091. Epub 2015 Sep 16.

Some Health States Are Better Than Others: Using Health State Rank Order to Improve Probabilistic Analyses.

Author information

Stanford Health Policy, Centers for Health Policy and Primary Care and Outcomes Research, Department of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, USA (JDGF, HJJ)
Health Policy and Management, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, USA (HJJ)



Probabilistic sensitivity analyses (PSA) may lead policy makers to take nonoptimal actions due to misestimates of decision uncertainty caused by ignoring correlations. We developed a method to establish joint uncertainty distributions of quality-of-life (QoL) weights exploiting ordinal preferences over health states.


Our method takes as inputs independent, univariate marginal distributions for each QoL weight and a preference ordering. It establishes a correlation matrix between QoL weights intended to preserve the ordering. It samples QoL weight values from their distributions, ordering them with the correlation matrix. It calculates the proportion of samples violating the ordering, iteratively adjusting the correlation matrix until this proportion is below an arbitrarily small threshold. We compare our method with the uncorrelated method and other methods for preserving rank ordering in terms of violation proportions and fidelity to the specified marginal distributions along with PSA and expected value of partial perfect information (EVPPI) estimates, using 2 models: 1) a decision tree with 2 decision alternatives and 2) a chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) Markov model with 3 alternatives.


All methods make tradeoffs between violating preference orderings and altering marginal distributions. For both models, our method simultaneously performed best, with largest performance advantages when distributions reflected wider uncertainty. For PSA, larger changes to the marginal distributions induced by existing methods resulted in differing conclusions about which strategy was most likely optimal. For EVPPI, both preference order violations and altered marginal distributions caused existing methods to misestimate the maximum value of seeking additional information, sometimes concluding that there was no value.


Analysts can characterize the joint uncertainty in QoL weights to improve PSA and value-of-information estimates using Open Source implementations of our method.


bias; correlated parameters; expected value of partial perfect information; joint distribution; parameter correlation; probabilistic sensitivity analysis; value of information

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center