Decision making and risk


A decision arises in a situation where an individual (or a group of individuals) has to choose a course of actions between more than one alternative/option in order to end uncertainty or confusion about values of the outcomes. For instance, a local authority, that intends to commission a care provider to place persons with long–term care conditions, will have to make a decision (i.e. selecting one among a number of care providers) that ensures patient satisfaction and contains costs.

In fact, decision making can be quite challenging. The decision maker might have to satisfy multiple and often conflicting criteria (e.g. building a new hospital should be in location A or B based on cost, environment and transport facilities). There could also be multiple decision layers (i.e. sequence of decisions) (e.g. the decision of selecting a care provider might impact on the contract duration and the number of places commissioned). The decision maker could also operate under risk (e.g. a risk of shortage of stock of medicines or blood pack can make patient’s health condition worsen).

Each situation requires a different decision making approach and tools to evaluate the alternatives. Operational research/statistical methods facilitate decision making and enable decision makers to avoid poor decisions.

This course provides an introduction to models and methods that can help and inform crucial health care decisions.

Aims/Learning objectives

At the end of this module, students should be able to:

  • Understand how modelling can support decision making and the limitations of these approaches.
  • Be able to construct decision trees and assess expected value.
  • Understand how risk might influence decisions.
  • Understand the use of Multi-Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) approaches.

Course Outline

  • Part 1: What about decision making?
    • Context: the health and social care system
    • General concepts
    • Types of decision model
    • Decision making process
  • Part 2: How to display a decision problem?
    • Decision table
    • Decision tree
    • Influence diagram
  • Part 3: Monte-Carlo Simulation
    • What is it?
    • How does it work?
  • Part 4: Multi-Criteria Decision Making
    • Multi-Criteria Scoring Model
    • Analytic Hierarchy Process
  • Hands-on session:
    • Modelling a walk-in centre using Palisade Decision Tools (@RISK)

Course delivery

This course is taught using one day’s face-to-face training in our Central London premises.

This course is designed for those engaged in, or supporting, commissioning or provision of health and social care in order to make them appreciate the range of decision making methods that can help them understand and solve real-life problems.


In order to take part you will need mathematical skills, including simple algebraic manipulation, and some understanding of basic statistical techniques.

Software Support

The software used for this for this module is @RISK (a plugin for Microsoft Excel 2007/2010).


Prof. Thierry Chaussalet or Dr Salma Chahed:
Tel: 020 7911 5000 (ext. 65099 – ECS School Office)