Forecasting areawide hospital utilization: A comparison of five univariate time series techniques

Thomas W. Weiss, Carol M. Ashton, Nelda Wray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Time series analysis is one of the methods health services researchers, managers and planners have to examine and predict utilization over time. The focus of this study is univariate time series techniques, which model the change in a dependent variable over time, using time as the only independent variable. These techniques can be used with administrative healthcare databases, which typically contain reliable, timespecific utilization variables, but may lack adequate numbers of variables needed for behavioral or economic modeling. The inpatient discharge database of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Patient Treatment File, was used to calculate monthly time series over a six-year period for the nation and across US Census Bureau regions for three hospital utilization indicators: average length of stay) discharge rate, and multiple stay ratio, a measure of readmissions. The first purpose of this study was to determine the accuracy of forecasting these indicators 24 months into the future using five univariate time series techniques. In almost all cases, techniques were able to forecast the magnitude and direction of future utilization within a 10% mean monthly error. The second purpose of the study was to describe time series of the three hospital utilization indicators. This approach raised several questions concerning Department of Veterans Affairs hospital utilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-190
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Services Management Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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