The Markov process in medical prognosis

Med Decis Making. 1983;3(4):419-458. doi: 10.1177/0272989X8300300403.


The physician's estimate of prognosis under alternative treatment plans is a principal factor in therapeutic decision making. Current methods of reporting prognosis, which include five-year survivals, survival curves, and quality-adjusted life expectancy, are crude estimates of natural history. In this paper we describe a general-purpose model of medical prognosis based on the Markov process and show how this simple mathematical tool may be used to generate detailed and accurate assessments of life expectancy and health status.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / complications
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / drug therapy
  • Cerebral Infarction / complications
  • Female
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Markov Chains*
  • Middle Aged
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Probability*
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life
  • Therapeutics*


  • Anticoagulants