The use of receiver operating characteristic curves in biomedical informatics

J Biomed Inform. 2005 Oct;38(5):404-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2005.02.008. Epub 2005 Apr 2.


Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves are frequently used in biomedical informatics research to evaluate classification and prediction models for decision support, diagnosis, and prognosis. ROC analysis investigates the accuracy of a model's ability to separate positive from negative cases (such as predicting the presence or absence of disease), and the results are independent of the prevalence of positive cases in the study population. It is especially useful in evaluating predictive models or other tests that produce output values over a continuous range, since it captures the trade-off between sensitivity and specificity over that range. There are many ways to conduct an ROC analysis. The best approach depends on the experiment; an inappropriate approach can easily lead to incorrect conclusions. In this article, we review the basic concepts of ROC analysis, illustrate their use with sample calculations, make recommendations drawn from the literature, and list readily available software.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Engineering / methods*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical*
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Humans
  • Medical Informatics / methods*
  • Models, Biological*
  • ROC Curve*
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors