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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A predictive Bayesian approach to risk analysis in health care

Terje Aven* and Karianne Eidesen

Author Affiliations

Department of industrial economics, risk management and planning, University of Stavanger, Stavanger, Norway

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2007, 7:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-7-38

Published: 23 August 2007



The Bayesian approach is now widely recognised as a proper framework for analysing risk in health care. However, the traditional text-book Bayesian approach is in many cases difficult to implement, as it is based on abstract concepts and modelling.


The essential points of the risk analyses conducted according to the predictive Bayesian approach are identification of observable quantities, prediction and uncertainty assessments of these quantities, using all the relevant information. The risk analysis summarizes the knowledge and lack of knowledge concerning critical operations and other activities, and give in this way a basis for making rational decisions.


It is shown that Bayesian risk analysis can be significantly simplified and made more accessible compared to the traditional text-book Bayesian approach by focusing on predictions of observable quantities and performing uncertainty assessments of these quantities using subjective probabilities.


The predictive Bayesian approach provides a framework for ensuring quality of risk analysis. The approach acknowledges that risk cannot be adequately described and evaluated simply by reference to summarising probabilities. Risk is defined by the combination of possible consequences and associated uncertainties.