Primary care practices’ ability to predict future risk of expenditures and hospitalization using risk stratification and segmentation

David A. Dorr, Rachel L. Ross, Deborah Cohen, Devan Kansagara, Katrina Ramsey, Bhavaya Sachdeva, Jonathan P. Weiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with complex health care needs may suffer adverse outcomes from fragmented and delayed care, reducing well-being and increasing health care costs. Health reform efforts, especially those in primary care, attempt to mitigate risk of adverse outcomes by better targeting resources to those most in need. However, predicting who is susceptible to adverse outcomes, such as unplanned hospitalizations, ED visits, or other potentially avoidable expenditures, can be difficult, and providing intensive levels of resources to all patients is neither wanted nor efficient. Our objective was to understand if primary care teams can predict patient risk better than standard risk scores. Methods: Six primary care practices risk stratified their entire patient population over a 2-year period, and worked to mitigate risk for those at high risk through care management and coordination. Individual patient risk scores created by the practices were collected and compared to a common risk score (Hierarchical Condition Categories) in their ability to predict future expenditures, ED visits, and hospitalizations. Accuracy of predictions, sensitivity, positive predictive values (PPV), and c-statistics were calculated for each risk scoring type. Analyses were stratified by whether the practice used intuition alone, an algorithm alone, or adjudicated an algorithmic risk score. Results: In all, 40,342 patients were risk stratified. Practice scores had 38.6% agreement with HCC scores on identification of high-risk patients. For the 3,381 patients with reliable outcomes data, accuracy was high (0.71–0.88) but sensitivity and PPV were low (0.16–0.40). Practice-created scores had 0.02–0.14 lower sensitivity, specificity and PPV compared to HCC in prediction of outcomes. Practices using adjudication had, on average,.16 higher sensitivity. Conclusions: Practices using simple risk stratification techniques had slightly worse accuracy in predicting common outcomes than HCC, but adjudication improved prediction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104
JournalBMC medical informatics and decision making
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Care management
  • Chronic disease
  • Primary care
  • Risk assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics


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