Measuring agreement between healthcare survey instruments using mutual information

Yuncheol Kang, Melinda R. Steis, Ann M. Kolanowski, Donna Fick, Vittaldas V. Prabhu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Healthcare researchers often use multiple healthcare survey instruments to examine a particular patient symptom. The use of multiple instruments can pose some interesting research questions, such as whether the outcomes produced by the different instruments are in agreement. We tackle this problem using information theory, focusing on mutual information to compare outcomes from multiple healthcare survey instruments. Methods: We review existing methods of measuring agreement/disagreement between the instruments and suggest a procedure that utilizes mutual information to quantitatively measure the amount of information shared by outcomes from multiple healthcare survey instruments. We also include worked examples to explain the approach. Results: As a case study, we employ the suggested procedure to analyze multiple healthcare survey instruments used for detecting delirium superimposed on dementia (DSD) in community-dwelling older adults. In addition, several examples are used to assess the mutual information technique in comparison with other measures, such as odds ratio and Cohen's kappa. Conclusions: Analysis of mutual information can be useful in explaining agreement/disagreement between multiple instruments. The suggested approach provides new insights into and potential improvements for the application of healthcare survey instruments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number99
JournalBMC medical informatics and decision making
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 26 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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