Run charts revisited: a simulation study of run chart rules for detection of non-random variation in health care processes

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 25;9(11):e113825. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113825. eCollection 2014.


Background: A run chart is a line graph of a measure plotted over time with the median as a horizontal line. The main purpose of the run chart is to identify process improvement or degradation, which may be detected by statistical tests for non-random patterns in the data sequence.

Methods: We studied the sensitivity to shifts and linear drifts in simulated processes using the shift, crossings and trend rules for detecting non-random variation in run charts.

Results: The shift and crossings rules are effective in detecting shifts and drifts in process centre over time while keeping the false signal rate constant around 5% and independent of the number of data points in the chart. The trend rule is virtually useless for detection of linear drift over time, the purpose it was intended for.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Models, Organizational*

Grants and funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.