Linked Sensitivity Analysis, Calibration, and Uncertainty Analysis Using a System Dynamics Model for Stroke Comparative Effectiveness Research.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Repository Usage Stats


Citation Stats



As health services researchers and decision makers tackle more difficult problems using simulation models, the number of parameters and the corresponding degree of uncertainty have increased. This often results in reduced confidence in such complex models to guide decision making.


To demonstrate a systematic approach of linked sensitivity analysis, calibration, and uncertainty analysis to improve confidence in complex models.


Four techniques were integrated and applied to a System Dynamics stroke model of US veterans, which was developed to inform systemwide intervention and research planning: Morris method (sensitivity analysis), multistart Powell hill-climbing algorithm and generalized likelihood uncertainty estimation (calibration), and Monte Carlo simulation (uncertainty analysis).


Of 60 uncertain parameters, sensitivity analysis identified 29 needing calibration, 7 that did not need calibration but significantly influenced key stroke outcomes, and 24 not influential to calibration or stroke outcomes that were fixed at their best guess values. One thousand alternative well-calibrated baselines were obtained to reflect calibration uncertainty and brought into uncertainty analysis. The initial stroke incidence rate among veterans was identified as the most influential uncertain parameter, for which further data should be collected. That said, accounting for current uncertainty, the analysis of 15 distinct prevention and treatment interventions provided a robust conclusion that hypertension control for all veterans would yield the largest gain in quality-adjusted life years.


For complex health care models, a mixed approach was applied to examine the uncertainty surrounding key stroke outcomes and the robustness of conclusions. We demonstrate that this rigorous approach can be practical and advocate for such analysis to promote understanding of the limits of certainty in applying models to current decisions and to guide future data collection.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Tian, Yuan, Kristen Hassmiller Lich, Nathaniel D Osgood, Kirsten Eom and David B Matchar (2016). Linked Sensitivity Analysis, Calibration, and Uncertainty Analysis Using a System Dynamics Model for Stroke Comparative Effectiveness Research. Medical decision making : an international journal of the Society for Medical Decision Making, 36(8). pp. 1043–1057. 10.1177/0272989x16643940 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



David Bruce Matchar

Professor of Medicine

My research relates to clinical practice improvement - from the development of clinical policies to their implementation in real world clinical settings. Most recently my major content focus has been cerebrovascular disease. Other major clinical areas in which I work include the range of disabling neurological conditions, cardiovascular disease, and cancer prevention.
Notable features of my work are: (1) reliance on analytic strategies such as meta-analysis, simulation, decision analysis and cost-effectiveness analysis; (2) a balancing of methodological rigor the needs of medical professionals; and (3) dependence on interdisciplinary groups of experts.
This approach is best illustrated by the Stroke Prevention Patient Outcome Research Team (PORT), for which I served as principal investigator. Funded by the AHCPR, the PORT involved 35 investigators at 13 institutions. The Stroke PORT has been highly productive and has led to a stroke prevention project funded as a public/private partnership by the AHCPR and DuPont Pharma, the Managing Anticoagulation Services Trial (MAST). MAST is a practice improvement trial in 6 managed care organizations, focussing on optimizing anticoagulation for individuals with atrial fibrillation.
I serve as consultant in the general area of analytic strategies for clinical policy development, as well as for specific projects related to stroke (e.g., acute stroke treatment, management of atrial fibrillation, and use of carotid endarterectomy.) I have worked with AHCPR (now AHRQ), ACP, AHA, AAN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, NSA, WHO, and several pharmaceutical companies.
Key Words: clinical policy, disease management, stroke, decision analysis, clinical guidelines

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.