Historical Data Analysis of Hospital Discharges Related to the Amerithrax Attack in Florida

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Interrupted time-series analysis (ITSA) can be used to identify, quantify, and evaluate the magnitude and direction of an event on the basis of time-series data. This study evaluates the impact of the bioterrorist anthrax attacks ("Amerithrax") on hospital inpatient discharges in the metropolitan statistical area of Palm Beach, Broward, and Miami-Dade counties in the fourth quarter of 2001. Three statistical methods-standardized incidence ratio (SIR), segmented regression, and an autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA)-were used to determine whether Amerithrax influenced inpatient utilization. The SIR found a non-statistically significant 2 percent decrease in hospital discharges. Although the segmented regression test found a slight increase in the discharge rate during the fourth quarter, it was also not statistically significant; therefore, it could not be attributed to Amerithrax. Segmented regression diagnostics preparing for ARIMA indicated that the quarterly data time frame was not serially correlated and violated one of the assumptions for the use of the ARIMA method and therefore could not properly evaluate the impact on the time-series data. Lack of data granularity of the time frames hindered the successful evaluation of the impact by the three analytic methods. This study demonstrates that the granularity of the data points is as important as the number of data points in a time series. ITSA is important for the ability to evaluate the impact that any hazard may have on inpatient utilization. Knowledge of hospital utilization patterns during disasters offer healthcare and civic professionals valuable information to plan, respond, mitigate, and evaluate any outcomes stemming from biothreats.

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Perspectives in health information management





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