Nursing home residents are of particular interest for comparative effectiveness research given their susceptibility to adverse treatment effects and systematic exclusion from trials. However, the risk of residual confounding because of unmeasured markers of declining health using conventional analytic methods is high. We evaluated the validity of instrumental variable (IV) methods based on nursing home prescribing preference to mitigate such confounding, using psychotropic medications to manage behavioral problems in dementia as a case study.
A cohort using linked data from Medicaid, Medicare, Minimum Data Set, and Online Survey, Certification and Reporting for 2001–2004 was established. Dual-eligible patients ≥65 years who initiated psychotropic medication use after admission were selected. Nursing home prescribing preference was characterized using mixed-effects logistic regression models. The plausibility of IV assumptions was explored, and the association between psychotropic medication class and 180-day mortality was estimated.
High-prescribing and low-prescribing nursing homes differed by a factor of 2. Each preference-based IV measure described a substantial proportion of variation in psychotropic medication choice (β(IV → treatment): 0.22-0.36). Measured patient characteristics were well balanced across patient groups based on instrument status (52% average reduction in Mahalanobis distance). There was no evidence that instrument status was associated with markers of nursing home quality of care.
Findings indicate that IV analyses using nursing home prescribing preference may be a useful approach in comparative effectiveness studies, and should extend naturally to analyses including untreated comparison groups, which are of great scientific interest but subject to even stronger confounding. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.