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Open Access Research article

Improving quality indicator report cards through Bayesian modeling

Byron J Gajewski12*, Jonathan D Mahnken1 and Nancy Dunton2

Author affiliations

1 Department of Biostatistics, School of Medicine, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, USA

2 School of Nursing, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Research Methodology 2008, 8:77  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-8-77

Published: 18 November 2008



The National Database for Nursing Quality Indicators® (NDNQI®) was established in 1998 to assist hospitals in monitoring indicators of nursing quality (eg, falls and pressure ulcers). Hospitals participating in NDNQI transmit data from nursing units to an NDNQI data repository. Data are summarized and published in reports that allow participating facilities to compare the results for their units with those from other units across the nation. A disadvantage of this reporting scheme is that the sampling variability is not explicit. For example, suppose a small nursing unit that has 2 out of 10 (rate of 20%) patients with pressure ulcers. Should the nursing unit immediately undertake a quality improvement plan because of the rate difference from the national average (7%)?


In this paper, we propose approximating 95% credible intervals (CrIs) for unit-level data using statistical models that account for the variability in unit rates for report cards.


Bayesian CrIs communicate the level of uncertainty of estimates more clearly to decision makers than other significance tests.


A benefit of this approach is that nursing units would be better able to distinguish problematic or beneficial trends from fluctuations likely due to chance.