Data-driven Markov models and their application in the evaluation of adverse events in radiotherapy.
Abler D., Kanellopoulos V., Davies J., Dosanjh M., Jena R., Kirkby N., Peach K.
Decision-making processes in medicine rely increasingly on modelling and simulation techniques; they are especially useful when combining evidence from multiple sources. Markov models are frequently used to synthesize the available evidence for such simulation studies, by describing disease and treatment progress, as well as associated factors such as the treatment's effects on a patient's life and the costs to society. When the same decision problem is investigated by multiple stakeholders, differing modelling assumptions are often applied, making synthesis and interpretation of the results difficult. This paper proposes a standardized approach towards the creation of Markov models. It introduces the notion of 'general Markov models', providing a common definition of the Markov models that underlie many similar decision problems, and develops a language for their specification. We demonstrate the application of this language by developing a general Markov model for adverse event analysis in radiotherapy and argue that the proposed method can automate the creation of Markov models from existing data. The approach has the potential to support the radiotherapy community in conducting systematic analyses involving predictive modelling of existing and upcoming radiotherapy data. We expect it to facilitate the application of modelling techniques in medical decision problems beyond the field of radiotherapy, and to improve the comparability of their results.