Health Services Research (HSR) Methods
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Potential Outcomes Framework
Related Terms: Counterfactual

An approach to measuring the causal impact of an intervention by conceptualizing the outcome that would have been observed had a group of study participants already given an experimental treatment not received that treatment.

The causal impact would be estimated by comparing the results for the group who received treatment to the (hypothetical) results for the same group in the absence of treatment. The set of potential outcomes that might have resulted had this exact same treatment group not received the treatment (but instead received something else, be it no treatment, alternative treatment, etc) is called the counterfactual.

Further Reading
Little, R.J. and D.B. Rubin. ''Causal Effects in Clinical and Epidemiological Studies Via Potential Outcomes: Concepts and Analytical Approaches, Annual Review of Public Health.'' Vol. 21, 2000, pp.121-145.

Angrist, J.D. et al. ''Identification of Causal Effects Using Instrumental Variables.'' Journal of the American Statistical Association Vol. 91, No. 434, 1996, pp.444-455.

Machekano, R.N. et al. Efficacy Studies of Malaria Treatments in Africa: Efficient Estimation with Missing Indicators of Failure. Vol. Paper 193, 2005.

Greenland, S. ''Epidemiologic Measures and Policy Formulation: Lessons from Potential Outcomes, Emerging Themes in Epidemiology.'' Vol. 2, 2005.