Unbiased Analysis of Today's Healthcare Issues

Which cancer treatment is best?

This seems like a straightforward question, but clearly depends on what you mean by “best”.  Some drugs will be more efficacious and have more adverse events; other drugs may be less efficacious but have fewer adverse events.  What if a one drug shows an 80% improvement in progression free survival (PFS), but a 50% improvement in overall […]

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Cancer deaths are rising…is that a good thing?

A JAMA Oncology paper estimating the global burden of cancer is getting a lot of attention in the press.  The study’s key findings are: In 2015, there were 17.5 million cancer cases worldwide and 8.7 million deaths. Between 2005 and 2015, cancer cases increased by 33% A 33% increase in cancer cases!!! There must be an […]

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Berkson’s paradox

Berkson’s paradox happens when given two independent events, if you only consider outcomes where at least one occurs, then they become negatively dependent.  More technically, this paradox occurs when there is ascertainment bias in a study design. Let me provide an example. Consider the case where patients can have diabetes or HIV.  Assume that patients have a positive probability of […]

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The problem with p-values

Interesting article in Aeon on why p-values may not be the best way to determine the probability we are observing a real effect in a study. Tests of statistical significance proceed by calculating the probability of making our observations (or the more extreme ones) if there were no real effect. This isn’t an assertion that […]

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AA and selection bias

This video that discusses whether alcoholics anonymous actually improves the outcomes of alcoholics who attend the meeting.  More broadly, the video the AA treatment effect discussion serves as an example for expounding on some fundamental statistical issues such as selection bias, randomization, intention to treat, marginal effect, instrumental variables, and others.

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Trends in Life Expectancy among Older Americans, by Race

It appear that most of the gains in longevity and reductions in disability among elderly Americans accrued to Caucasians. Using data from the 1982 and 2004 National Long Term Care Surveys and the 2011 National Health and Aging Trends Study, Freedman and Spillman (2016) find the following: We examine changes in active life expectancy in […]

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US Healthcare Spending Projections

In 2016 we will hit a milestone: national health spending per capita is projected to exceed $10,000 for the first time.  This estimate is from an article by Keehan et al. (2016).  In this paper, CMS’ Office of the Actuary (OACT) estimates costs not only this year but over the coming 10 years.  According to their projects, […]

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The Intuition behind Bayes Theorem

Bayes Theorem is well-known in law of probability. Mathematically, you could write it as: P(A|B)=P(A and B)/Pr(B) = P(B|A)*P(A)/P(B). An interesting interview in Scientific American with Decision theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky explains Bayes Theorem more intuitively. I might answer that Bayes’s Theorem is a kind of Second Law of Thermodynamics for cognition. If you obtain a […]

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Average prevalence of “sickness”

Despite the large number of illnesses defined by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD) disease coding system, health systems need to know how many encounters they are likely to experience each month. One gauge for this is the prevalence of sickness in the population. A paper by White et al. […]

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Confirmation Bias

HT: Incidental Economist.

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