Departmental Papers (ESE)



Explore whether agent-based modeling and simulation can help healthcare administrators discover interventions that increase population wellness and quality of care while, simultaneously, decreasing costs. Since important dynamics often lie in the social determinants outside the health facilities that provide services, this study thus models the problem at three levels (individuals, organizations, and society).


The study explores the utility of translating an existing (prize winning) software for modeling complex societal systems and agent's daily life activities (like a Sim City style of software), into a desired decision support system. A case study tests if the 3 levels of system modeling approach is feasible, valid, and useful. The case study involves an urban population with serious mental health and Philadelphia's Medicaid population (n = 527,056), in particular.


Section 3 explains the models using data from the case study and thereby establishes feasibility of the approach for modeling a real system. The models were trained and tuned using national epidemiologic datasets and various domain expert inputs. To avoid co-mingling of training and testing data, the simulations were then run and compared (Section 4.1) to an analysis of 250,000 Philadelphia patient hospital admissions for the year 2010 in terms of re-hospitalization rate, number of doctor visits, and days in hospital. Based on the Student t-test, deviations between simulated vs. real world outcomes are not statistically significant. Validity is thus established for the 2008–2010 timeframe. We computed models of various types of interventions that were ineffective as well as 4 categories of interventions (e.g., reduced per-nurse caseload, increased check-ins and stays, etc.) that result in improvement in well-being and cost.


The 3 level approach appears to be useful to help health administrators sort through system complexities to find effective interventions at lower costs.

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source

Artificial Intelligence in Medicine





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Copyright/Permission Statement

© 2014. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license


Agent-based, Decision support, Community healthcare, Systems analysis, Readmission, Mental health systems



Date Posted: 24 July 2016

This document has been peer reviewed.