GEE estimation of a misspecified time-varying covariate: An example with the effect of alcoholism treatment on medical utilization

Melanie M. Wall, Yu Dai, Lynn E. Eberly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

The generalized estimation equation (GEE) method is widely used in longitudinal data analysis, particularly when the outcome variable is non-Gaussian distributed. Under mild regulatory conditions, the parameter estimates are consistent and their asymptotic variances are efficient. In an observational study focusing on alcoholism patients, we applied the GEE method to longitudinal count data from medical utilization records from a large national managed care organization. The health services research question was whether there was a change in medical utilization for patients after engaging in alcoholism treatment as compared to before treatment. Thus, the main effect of interest was a time-varying covariate indicating whether the patient had undergone treatment yet or not. GEE under five different working correlations was employed and mixed results regarding the significance of the treatment effect were found. Because of the large sample size, i.e. 8485 patients with an average of 46 repeated measurements per patient, differences across the estimates produced by the different working correlation structures was suspicious. It is shown that these differences are maybe caused by the fact that the time-varying covariate in the marginal mean model is misspecified. A simulation study is performed to demonstrate that misspecification of the time-varying covariate in the marginal mean structure can cause differences in GEE results across various choices of working correlation structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-939
Number of pages15
JournalStatistics in Medicine
Volume24
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 30 2005

Keywords

  • Health services research
  • Longitudinal modeling
  • Poisson regression

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