Background: Motor vehicle accidents (MVA) represent a significant burden on health systems globally. Tens of thousands of people are injured in Australia every year and may experience significant disability. Associated economic costs are substantial. There is little literature on the health service utilization patterns of MVA patients. To fill this gap, this study has been designed to investigate temporal patterns of psychology and physiotherapy service utilization following transport-related injuries.

Method: De-identified compensation data was provided by the Australian Transport Accident Commission. Utilization of physiotherapy and psychology services was analysed. The datasets contained 788 psychology and 3115 physiotherapy claimants and 22,522 and 118,453 episodes of service utilization, respectively. 582 claimants used both services, and their data were preprocessed to generate multidimensional time series. Time series clustering was applied using a mixture of hidden Markov models to identify the main distinct patterns of service utilization. Combinations of hidden states and clusters were evaluated and optimized using the Bayesian information criterion and interpretability. Cluster membership was further investigated using static covariates and multinomial logistic regression, and classified using high-performing classifiers (extreme gradient boosting machine, random forest and support vector machine) with 5-fold cross-validation.

Results: Four clusters of claimants were obtained from the clustering of the time series of service utilization. Service volumes and costs increased progressively from clusters 1 to 4. Membership of cluster 1 was positively associated with nerve damage and negatively associated with severe ABI and spinal injuries. Cluster 3 was positively associated with severe ABI, brain/head injury and psychiatric injury. Cluster 4 was positively associated with internal injuries. The classifiers were capable of classifying cluster membership with moderate to strong performance (AUC: 0.62–0.96).

Conclusion: The available time series of post-accident psychology and physiotherapy service utilization were coalesced into four clusters that were clearly distinct in terms of patterns of utilization. In addition, pre-treatment covariates allowed prediction of a claimant’s post-accident service utilization with reasonable accuracy. Such results can be useful for a range of decision-making processes, including the design of interventions aimed at improving claimant care and recovery.


hidden Markov models, artificial intelligence, time-series analysis, traffic accidents, health service utilization, claim insurance data

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