A decision tree is a decision model that represents all possible pathways through sequences of events (nodes), which can be under the experimenter’s control (decisions) or not (chances). A decision tree can be represented visually according to a standardised grammar:
Nodes are linked by edges:
rdecision builds a Decision Tree model by defining these
elements and their relationships. For example, consider the fictitious
and idealized decision problem, introduced in the package README file,
of choosing between providing two forms of lifestyle advice, offered to
people with vascular disease, which reduce the risk of needing an
interventional procedure. The cost to a healthcare provider of the
interventional procedure (e.g. inserting a stent) is 5000 GBP; the cost
of providing the current form of lifestyle advice, an appointment with a
dietician (“diet”), is 50 GBP and the cost of providing an alternative
form, attendance at an exercise programme (“exercise”), is 750 GBP. If
the advice programme is successful, there is no need for an
The model for this fictional scenario can be defined by the following elements:
<- ChanceNode$new("Outcome") chance_node_diet <- ChanceNode$new("Outcome")chance_node_exercise
<- LeafNode$new("No intervention") leaf_node_diet_no_stent <- LeafNode$new("Intervention") leaf_node_diet_stent <- LeafNode$new("No intervention") leaf_node_exercise_no_stent <- LeafNode$new("Intervention")leaf_node_exercise_stent
These nodes can then be wired into a decision tree graph by defining the edges that link pairs of nodes:
<- Action$new( action_diet cost = 50, label = "Diet" decision_node, chance_node_diet, )<- Action$new( action_exercise cost = 750, label = "Exercise" decision_node, chance_node_exercise, )
<- 12/68 p.diet <- 18/58 p.exercise <- Reaction$new( reaction_diet_success chance_node_diet, leaf_node_diet_no_stent, p = p.diet, cost = 0, label = "Success") <- Reaction$new( reaction_diet_failure chance_node_diet, leaf_node_diet_stent, p = 1 - p.diet, cost = 5000, label = "Failure") <- Reaction$new( reaction_exercise_success chance_node_exercise, leaf_node_exercise_no_stent, p = p.exercise, cost = 0, label = "Success") <- Reaction$new( reaction_exercise_failure chance_node_exercise, leaf_node_exercise_stent, p = 1 - p.exercise, cost = 5000, label = "Failure")
When all the elements are defined and satisfy the restrictions of a
Decision Tree (see the documentation for the
class for details), the whole model can be built:
<- DecisionTree$new( DT V = list(decision_node, chance_node_diet, chance_node_exercise, leaf_node_diet_no_stent, leaf_node_diet_stent, leaf_node_exercise_no_stent, leaf_node_exercise_stent),E = list(action_diet, action_exercise, reaction_diet_success, reaction_diet_failure, reaction_exercise_success, reaction_exercise_failure))
rdecision includes a
draw method to
generate a diagram of a defined Decision Tree.
As a decision model, a Decision Tree takes into account the costs,
probabilities and utilities encountered as each strategy is traversed
from left to right. In this example, only two strategies (Diet or
Exercise) exist in the model and can be compared using the
<- DT$evaluate() DT_evaluation ::kable(DT_evaluation, digits=2)knitr
Note that this approach aggregates multiple paths that belong to the
same strategy (for example, the Success and Failure paths of the Diet
strategy). The option
by = "path" can be used to evaluate
each path separately.
::kable(DT$evaluate(by = "path"), digits=c(NA,NA,3,2,3,3,3,1))knitr
From the evaluation of the two strategies, it is apparent that the Diet strategy is overall marginally cheaper by 30.63 GBP.
However, cost is not the only consideration that can be modelled using a Decision Tree. Suppose that requiring an intervention reduces the quality of life of patients, such that the utility of the Leaf nodes associated with a Failure is reduced from 1 to 0.75.
<- LeafNode$new("Intervention", utility = 0.75) leaf_node_diet_stent_reduced <- LeafNode$new("Intervention", utility = 0.75) leaf_node_exercise_stent_reduced <- Reaction$new( reaction_diet_failure_reduced chance_node_diet, leaf_node_diet_stent_reduced, p = 1 - p.diet, cost = 5000, label = "Failure") <- Reaction$new( reaction_exercise_failure_reduced chance_node_exercise, leaf_node_exercise_stent_reduced, p = 1 - p.exercise, cost = 5000, label = "Failure") <- DecisionTree$new( DT_reduced V = list(decision_node, chance_node_diet, chance_node_exercise, leaf_node_diet_no_stent, leaf_node_diet_stent_reduced, leaf_node_exercise_no_stent, leaf_node_exercise_stent_reduced),E = list(action_diet, action_exercise, reaction_diet_success, reaction_diet_failure_reduced, reaction_exercise_success, reaction_exercise_failure_reduced) ) <- DT_reduced$evaluate() DT_reduced_evaluation ::kable(DT_reduced_evaluation, digits=2)knitr
In this case, while the Diet strategy is preferred from a cost
perspective, the utility of the Exercise strategy is superior.
rdecision also calculates Quality-adjusted life-years
(QALYs) taking into account the time horizon of the model (in this case,
the default of one year was used, and therefore QALYs correspond to the
Utility values). From these figures, the Incremental cost-effectiveness
ration (ICER) can be easily calculated:
resulting in a cost of 915.15 GBP per QALY gained in choosing the more effective Exercise strategy over the cheaper Diet strategy.
The model shown above uses a fixed value for each parameter, resulting in a single point estimate for each model result. However, parameters may be affected by uncertainty: for example, the success probability of each strategy is extracted from a small trial of few patients. This uncertainty can be incorporated into the Decision Tree model by representing individual parameters with a statistical distribution, then repeating the evaluation of the model multiple times with each run randomly drawing parameters from these defined distributions.
rdecision, model variables that are described by a
distribution are represented by
ModVar objects. Many
commonly used distributions, such as the Normal, Log-Normal, Gamma and
Beta distributions are included in the package, and additional
distributions can be easily implemented from the generic
ModVar class. Additionally, model variables that are
calculated from other r probabilistic variables using an expression can
be represented as
In our simplified example, the probability of success of each strategy should include the uncertainty associated with the small sample that they are based on. This can be represented statistically by a Beta distribution, a probability distribution constrained to the interval [0, 1]. A Beta distribution that captures the results of the trials can be defined by the alpha (observed successes) and beta (observed failures) parameters.
# Diet: 12 successes / 68 total <- BetaModVar$new( p.diet_beta alpha = 12, beta = 68-12, description = "P(diet)", units = "" )# Exercise: 18 successes / 58 total <- BetaModVar$new( p.exercise_beta alpha = 18, beta = 58-18, description = "P(exercise)", units = "" )
These distributions describe the probability of success of each
strategy; by the constraints of a Decision Tree, the sum of all
probabilities associated with a chance node must be 1, so the
probability of failure should be calculated as 1 - p(Success). This can
be represented by an
<- ExprModVar$new( q.diet_beta ::quo(1-p.diet_beta), description = "1-P(diet)", units = "" rlang )<- ExprModVar$new( q.exercise_beta ::quo(1-p.exercise_beta), description = "1-P(exercise)", units = "" rlang)
Fixed costs can be left as numerical values, or also be represented
ModVars - this ensures that they are included in
<- ConstModVar$new("Cost of diet programme", "GBP", 50) cost_diet <- ConstModVar$new("Cost of exercise programme", "GBP", 750) cost_exercise <- ConstModVar$new("Cost of stent intervention", "GBP", 5000)cost_stent
The newly defined
ModVars can be incorporated into the
Decision Tree model using the same grammar as the non-probabilistic
<- Action$new( action_diet_prob decision_node, chance_node_diet,cost = cost_diet, label = "Diet") <- Action$new( action_exercise_prob decision_node, chance_node_exercise, cost = cost_exercise, label = "Exercise") <- Reaction$new( reaction_diet_success_prob chance_node_diet, leaf_node_diet_no_stent, p = p.diet_beta, cost = 0, label = "Success") <- Reaction$new( reaction_diet_failure_prob chance_node_diet, leaf_node_diet_stent, p = q.diet_beta, cost = cost_stent, label = "Failure") <- Reaction$new( reaction_exercise_success_prob chance_node_exercise, leaf_node_exercise_no_stent, p = p.exercise_beta, cost = 0, label = "Success") <- Reaction$new( reaction_exercise_failure_prob chance_node_exercise, leaf_node_exercise_stent, p = q.exercise_beta, cost = cost_stent, label = "Failure")
The probabilistic Decision Tree is built in the same way as before, but it now provides additional functionalities.
<- DecisionTree$new( DT_prob V = list(decision_node, chance_node_diet, chance_node_exercise, leaf_node_diet_no_stent, leaf_node_diet_stent, leaf_node_exercise_no_stent, leaf_node_exercise_stent),E = list(action_diet_prob, action_exercise_prob, reaction_diet_success_prob, reaction_diet_failure_prob, reaction_exercise_success_prob, reaction_exercise_failure_prob))
All the probabilistic variables included in the model can be
tabulated using the
modvar_table() method, which details
the distribution definition and some useful parameters, such as mean, SD
and 95% CI.
::kable(DT_prob$modvar_table(), digits = 3)knitr
|Cost of diet programme||GBP||Const(50)||50.000||50.000||0.000||50.000||50.000||FALSE|
|Cost of exercise programme||GBP||Const(750)||750.000||750.000||0.000||750.000||750.000||FALSE|
|Cost of stent intervention||GBP||Const(5000)||5000.000||5000.000||0.000||5000.000||5000.000||FALSE|
|1-P(diet)||1 - p.diet_beta||0.824||0.823||0.048||0.718||0.903||TRUE|
|1-P(exercise)||1 - p.exercise_beta||0.690||0.689||0.061||0.563||0.810||TRUE|
A call to the
evaluate() method with the default
settings uses the expected (mean) value of each variable, and so
replicates the point estimate above.
However, because each variable is described by a distribution, it is now possible to explore the range of possible values consistent with the model. For example, a lower and upper bound can be estimated by setting each variable to its 2.5-th or 97.5-th percentile:
::kable(data.frame( knitr"Q2.5" = DT_prob$evaluate(setvars = "q2.5")$Cost, "Q97.5" = DT_prob$evaluate(setvars = "q97.5")$Cost, row.names = c("Diet", "Exercise") digits=2)),
To sample the possible outcomes in a completely probabilistic way,
setvar = "random" option can be used, which draws a
random value from the distribution of each variable. Repeating this
process a sufficiently large number of times builds a collection of
results compatible with the model definition, which can then be used to
calculate ranges and confidence intervals of the estimated values.
= 1000 N <- DT_prob$evaluate(setvars="random", by="run", N=N) DT_evaluation_random plot(DT_evaluation_random$Cost.Diet, DT_evaluation_random$Cost.Exercise, pch=20, xlab="Cost Diet (GBP)", ylab="Cost Exercise (GBP)", main=paste(N, "simulations of vascular disease prevention model")) abline(a=0,b=1,col="red")
|Min. :3355||Min. :3136|
|1st Qu.:4028||1st Qu.:3978|
|Median :4192||Median :4193|
|Mean :4170||Mean :4182|
|3rd Qu.:4326||3rd Qu.:4393|
|Max. :4737||Max. :5031|
The variables can be further manipulated, for example calculating the difference in cost between the two strategies for each run of the randomised model:
$Difference <- DT_evaluation_random$Cost.Diet - DT_evaluation_random$Cost.Exercise DT_evaluation_randomhist(DT_evaluation_random$Difference, 100, main="Distribution of saving", xlab="Saving (GBP)")
<- quantile(DT_evaluation_random$Difference, c(0.025, 0.975))CI
Plotting the distribution of the difference of the two costs reveals that, in this model, the uncertainties in the input parameters are large enough that either strategy could be cheaper, within a 95% confidence interval [-751.12 - 786.95].
rdecision provides a
threshold method to
compare two strategies and identify, for a given variable, the value at
which one strategy becomes preferable over the other:
<- DT_prob$threshold( cost_threshold index = list(action_exercise_prob), ref = list(action_diet_prob), mvd = cost_exercise$description(), a = 0, b = 5000, tol = 0.1 ) <- DT_prob$threshold( success_threshold index = list(action_exercise_prob), ref = list(action_diet_prob), mvd = p.exercise_beta$description(), a = 0, b = 1, tol = 0.001 )
By univariate threshold analysis, the exercise program will be cost saving when its cost of delivery is less than 719.38 GBP or when its success rate is greater than 31.7%.