Capturing multi-stage fuzzy uncertainties in hybrid system dynamics and agent-based models for enhancing policy implementation in health systems research

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Background In practical research, it was found that most people made health-related decisions not based on numerical data but on perceptions. Examples include the perceptions and their corresponding linguistic values of health risks such as, smoking, syringe sharing, eating energy-dense food, drinking sugar-sweetened beverages etc. For the sake of understanding the mechanisms that affect the implementations of health-related interventions, we employ fuzzy variables to quantify linguistic variable in healthcare modeling where we employ an integrated system dynamics and agent-based model. Methodology In a nonlinear causal-driven simulation environment driven by feedback loops, we mathematically demonstrate how interventions at an aggregate level affect the dynamics of linguistic variables that are captured by fuzzy agents and how interactions among fuzzy agents, at the same time, affect the formation of different clusters(groups) that are targeted by specific interventions. Results In this paper, we provide an innovative framework to capture multi-stage fuzzy uncertainties manifested among interacting heterogeneous agents (individuals) and intervention decisions that affect homogeneous agents (groups of individuals) in a hybrid model that combines an agent-based simulation model (ABM) and a system dynamics models (SDM). Having built the platform to incorporate high-dimension data in a hybrid ABM/SDM model, this paper demonstrates how one can obtain the state variable behaviors in the SDM and the corresponding values of linguistic variables in the ABM. Conclusions This research provides a way to incorporate high-dimension data in a hybrid ABM/SDM model. This research not only enriches the application of fuzzy set theory by capturing the dynamics of variables associated with interacting fuzzy agents that lead to aggregate behaviors but also informs implementation research by enabling the incorporation of linguistic variables at both individual and institutional levels, which makes unstructured linguistic data meaningful and quantifiable in a simulation environment. This research can help practitioners and decision makers to gain better understanding on the dynamics and complexities of precision intervention in healthcare. It can aid the improvement of the optimal allocation of resources for targeted group (s) and the achievement of maximum utility. As this technology becomes more mature, one can design policy flight simulators by which policy/intervention designers can test a variety of assumptions when they evaluate different alternatives interventions.