Pharmaceutical Statistics

Choosing between the BP and BN sequential strategies

Early View

SUMMARY Cost and burden of diagnostic testing may be reduced if fewer tests can be applied. Sequential testing involves selecting a sequence of tests, but only administering subsequent tests dependent on results of previous tests. This research provides guidance to choosing between single tests or the believe the positive (BP) and believe the negative (BN) sequential testing strategies, using accuracy (as measured by the Youden Index) as the primary determinant. Approximately 75% of the parameter combinations examined resulted in either BP or BN being recommended based on a higher accuracy at the optimal point. In about half of the scenarios BP was preferred, and the other half, BN, with the choice often a function of the value of the ratio of standard deviations of those without and with disease (b). Large values of b for the first test of the sequence tended to be associated with preference for BN as opposed to BP, while small values of b appear to favor BP. When there was no preference between sequences and/or single tests based on the Youden Index, cost of the sequence was considered. In this case, disease prevalence plays a large role in the selection of strategies, with lower values favoring BN and sometimes higher values favoring BP. The cost threshold for the sequential strategy to be preferred over a single, more accurate test, was often quite high. It appears that while sequential strategies most often increase diagnostic accuracy over a single test, sequential strategies are not always preferred.

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