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VOLUME 49 | NUMBER 5 | OCTOBER 2014


Methods for Constructing and Assessing Propensity Scores

Keywords: Observational data/quasi-experiments;patient outcomes/function.

Objectives: To model the steps involved in preparing for and carrying out propensity score analyses by providing step-by-step guidance and Stata code applied to an empirical dataset.

Study Design: Guidance, Stata code, and empirical examples are given to illustrate (1) the process of choosing variables to include in the propensity score; (2) balance of propensity score across treatment and comparison groups; (3) balance of covariates across treatment and comparison groups within blocks of the propensity score; (4) choice of matching and weighting strategies; (5) balance of covariates after matching or weighting the sample; and (6) interpretation of treatment effect estimates.

Empirical Application: We use data from the Palliative Care for Cancer Patients (PC4C) study, a multisite observational study of the effect of inpatient palliative care on patient health outcomes and health services use, to illustrate the development and use of a propensity score.

Conclusions: Propensity scores are one useful tool for accounting for observed differences between treated and comparison groups. Careful testing of propensity scores is required before using them to estimate treatment effects.

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