Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology
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Modelling the episodes of care for iron deficiency anemia patients in a secondary-care center using continuous-time multistate Markov chain

 Gastroenterology Unit, University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust, Poole; Department of Medical Science and Public Health, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK

Correspondence Address:
Orouba Almilaji,
Medical Science and Public Health Department, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/sjg.sjg_387_21

PMID: 34755711

Background: Despite the high prevalence of gastro-intestinal (GI) cancer in iron deficiency anemia (IDA), some IDA patients do not complete all the necessary GI investigations at the initial referral. As a result, existing cancers are diagnosed at a later referral with worse prognosis. The potential to detect GI cancer early depends on minimizing the delay time spent between the two consecutive referrals, where a patient did not complete investigations at the first referral, but at the second is diagnosed with positive GI cancer. This retrospective longitudinal study aims to highlight the proper methods to model these referrals. Methods: Using anonymized data of 168 episodes of care for IDA patients at an IDA clinic in a secondary care setting, continuous-time multi-state Markov chain is employed to determine the transition rates among three observed states for IDA patients at the IDA clinic, “incomplete investigations,” “negative GI cancer,” and “positive GI cancer” and to estimate the delay time. Results: Once in the state of incomplete investigations, an estimated mean delay time of 3.1 years (95% CI: 1.2, 5) is spent before being diagnosed with positive GI cancer. The probability that a “positive GI diagnosis” is next after the state of “incomplete investigation” is 17%, compared with 11% when it is followed in the state of negative GI cancer. Defining the survival as the event of not being in the state of “positive GI cancer,” the survival rate of IDA patients with negative GI cancer is always higher than those with incomplete investigations. Finally, being diagnosed with positive GI cancer is always preceded by the prediction of being considered “very high risk” at the earlier visit. Conclusion: A baseline model was proposed to represent episodes of care for IDA patients at a secondary care center. Preliminary results highlight the importance of completing the GI investigations, especially in IDA patients, who are at high risk of GI cancer and fit to go through the investigations.

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