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The use of the propensity score for estimating treatment effects: administrative versus clinical data


There is an increasing interest in using administrative data to estimate the treatment effects of interventions. While administrative data are relatively inexpensive to obtain and provide population coverage, they are frequently characterized by lack of clinical detail, often leading to problematic confounding when they are used to conduct observational research. Propensity score methods are increasingly being used to address confounding in estimating the effects of interventions in such studies. Using data on patients discharged from hospital for whom both administrative data and detailed clinical data obtained from chart reviews were available, we examined the degree to which stratifying on the quintiles of propensity scores derived from administrative data was able to balance patient characteristics measured in clinical data. We also determined the extent to which measures of treatment effect obtained using propensity score methods were similar to those obtained using traditional regression methods. As a test case, we examined the treatment effects of ASA and beta-blockers following acute myocardial infarction. We demonstrated that propensity scores developed using administrative data do not necessarily balance patient characteristics contained in clinical data. Furthermore, measures of treatment effectiveness were attenuated when obtained using clinical data compared to when administrative data were used.



Austin PC, Mamdani MM, Stukel TA, Anderson GM, Tu JV. Stat Med. 2005; 24(10):1563-78.

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