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Assessing accuracy of a continuous screening test in the presence of verification bias


Todd A. Alonzo, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Suite 300, 440 East Huntington Drive, PO Box 60012, Arcadia, CA 91066, USA.


Summary.  In studies to assess the accuracy of a screening test, often definitive disease assessment is too invasive or expensive to be ascertained on all the study subjects. Although it may be more ethical or cost effective to ascertain the true disease status with a higher rate in study subjects where the screening test or additional information is suggestive of disease, estimates of accuracy can be biased in a study with such a design. This bias is known as verification bias. Verification bias correction methods that accommodate screening tests with binary or ordinal responses have been developed; however, no verification bias correction methods exist for tests with continuous results. We propose and compare imputation and reweighting bias-corrected estimators of true and false positive rates, receiver operating characteristic curves and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve for continuous tests. Distribution theory and simulation studies are used to compare the proposed estimators with respect to bias, relative efficiency and robustness to model misspecification. The bias correction estimators proposed are applied to data from a study of screening tests for neonatal hearing loss.