Comparing healthcare quality: A common framework for both ordinal and cardinal data with an application to primary care variation in England

Paul Allanson*, Richard Cookson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper proposes a framework for comparing the quality of healthcare providers and assessing the variation in quality between them, which is directly applicable to both ordinal and cardinal quality data on a comparable basis. The resultant measures are sensitive to the full distribution of quality scores for each provider, not just the mean or the proportion meeting some binary quality threshold, thereby making full use of the multicategory response data increasingly available from patient experience surveys. The measures can also be standardized for factors such as age, sex, ethnicity, health and deprivation using a distribution regression model. We illustrate by measuring the quality of primary care services in England in 2019 using three different sources of publicly available, general practice-level information: multicategory response patient experience data, ordinal inspection ratings and cardinal clinical achievement scores. We find considerable variation at both local and regional levels using all three data sources. However, the correlation between the comparative quality indices calculated using the alternative data sources is weak, suggesting that they capture different aspects of general practice quality.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalHealth Economics (United Kingdom)
Early online date28 Aug 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors


  • comparative quality evaluation
  • England
  • healthcare variation
  • ordinal data
  • primary care services

Cite this