Expected value of sample information calculations in medical decision modeling

Med Decis Making. Mar-Apr 2004;24(2):207-27. doi: 10.1177/0272989X04263162.


There has been an increasing interest in using expected value of information (EVI) theory in medical decision making, to identify the need for further research to reduce uncertainty in decision and as a tool for sensitivity analysis. Expected value of sample information (EVSI) has been proposed for determination of optimum sample size and allocation rates in randomized clinical trials. This article derives simple Monte Carlo, or nested Monte Carlo, methods that extend the use of EVSI calculations to medical decision applications with multiple sources of uncertainty, with particular attention to the form in which epidemiological data and research findings are structured. In particular, information on key decision parameters such as treatment efficacy are invariably available on measures of relative efficacy such as risk differences or odds ratios, but not on model parameters themselves. In addition, estimates of model parameters and of relative effect measures in the literature may be heterogeneous, reflecting additional sources of variation besides statistical sampling error. The authors describe Monte Carlo procedures for calculating EVSI for probability, rate, or continuous variable parameters in multi parameter decision models and approximate methods for relative measures such as risk differences, odds ratios, risk ratios, and hazard ratios. Where prior evidence is based on a random effects meta-analysis, the authors describe different ESVI calculations, one relevant for decisions concerning a specific patient group and the other for decisions concerning the entire population of patient groups. They also consider EVSI methods for new studies intended to update information on both baseline treatment efficacy and the relative efficacy of 2 treatments. Although there are restrictions regarding models with prior correlation between parameters, these methods can be applied to the majority of probabilistic decision models. Illustrative worked examples of EVSI calculations are given in an appendix.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Information Management / methods*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Odds Ratio
  • United Kingdom