Rowan Iskandar, PhD, Assistant Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice has come out with a new publication: "A theoretical foundation for state-transition cohort models in health decision analysis"
AbstractFollowing its introduction over three decades ago, the cohort model has been used extensively to model population trajectories over time in decision-analytic modeling and health decision analysis studies. However, the stochastic process underlying cohort models has not been properly described. In this study, we explicate the stochastic process underlying a cohort model, by carefully formulating the dynamics of populations across health states and assigning probability rules on these dynamics. From this formulation, we explicate a mathematical representation of the system, which is given by the master equation: an evolution equation of the associated probability distribution. We solve the master equation by using the probability generation function method to obtain the explicit form of the probability of observing a particular realization of the system at an arbitrary time. The resulting generating function is used to derive the analytical expressions for calculating the mean and the variance of the process. Secondly, we represent the cohort model by a difference equation for the number of individuals across all states. From the difference equation, a continuous-time cohort model is recovered and takes the form of an ordinary differential equation. To show the equivalence between the derived stochastic process and the cohort model, we conduct a numerical exercise. We demonstrate that the population trajectories generated from the formulas match those from the cohort model simulation. In summary, the commonly-used cohort model represent the average of a continuous-time stochastic process on a multidimensional integer lattice governed by a master equation. Knowledge of the stochastic process underlying a cohort model provides a theoretical foundation for the modeling method.