Frequently, policy makers seek to roll out an intervention previously proven effective in a research study, perhaps subject to resource constraints. However, because different subpopulations may respond differently to the same treatment, there is no a priori guarantee that the intervention will be as effective in the targeted population as it was in the study. How then should policy makers target individuals to maximize intervention effectiveness? We propose a novel robust optimization approach that leverages evidence typically available in a published study. Our model can be easily optimized in minutes for realistic instances with off-the-shelf software and is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of resource and fairness constraints. We compare our approach with current practice by proving performance guarantees for both approaches, which emphasize their structural differences. We also prove an intuitive interpretation of our model in terms of regularization, penalizing differences in the demographic distribution between targeted individuals and the study population. Although the precise penalty depends on the choice of uncertainty set, we show that for special cases we can recover classical penalties from the covariate matching literature on causal inference. Finally, using real data from a large teaching hospital, we compare our approach to common practice in the particular context of reducing emergency department utilization by Medicaid patients through case management. We find that our approach can offer significant benefits over common practice, particularly when the heterogeneity in patient response to the treatment is large.
- robust optimization
- intervention effectiveness