Do health-care decision makers find economic evaluations useful? The findings of focus group research in UK health authorities.

C Hoffmann, B A Stoykova, J Nixon, J M Glanville, K Misso, M F Drummond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: The impact of economic evaluation studies on health-care decision makers has been shown to be rather limited. However, there is an increasing requirement for the cost-effectiveness of health-care interventions to be considered in formulating and implementing guidelines for clinical practice. This paper reports the findings of recent focus group research among UK health authorities, which examined the Usefulness of published economic evaluations within the decision-making processes. The findings are presented and discussed in light of other studies that have addressed this issue.

Methods: Focus group research was conducted with decision makers from a sample of two UK health authorities using the National Health Service Economic Evaluation Database (NHS EED) as a research vehicle to locate and report the findings of relevant economic studies. The study sample was initially invited to respond to questionnaires exploring the usefulness of published economic evaluations in the decision-making process and to outline particular topics that it felt would benefit from similar economic evidence. Following this, a detailed search was undertaken to retrieve structured NHS EED abstracts on these topics such that the usefulness and limitations of economic evaluations to decision making Could be determined.

Results: Decision makers generally recognized the usefulness and necessity of published economic evaluations in informing their decision-making processes, However, the value of studies was often limited because of the poor generalizability of results, the narrowness of research questions, and the lack of methodological rigor common to many published Studies. A total of 237 NHS EED full abstracts were retrieved in the specified areas of interest, which, within specified caveats, were generally found to be Useful as decision-making tools. There was a general consensus among decision makers in favor of developing a quality-scoring system for studies, thereby going beyond the critical summaries given in NHS EED.

Conclusions: Decision makers value information on cost-effectiveness as well as effectiveness alone, but methodological improvements are necessary to increase the reliability of economic studies. A quality-scoring system for published studies would be a useful development as a filtering mechanism for decision makers but would raise a number of challenges for health economists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)71-8
Number of pages8
JournalValue in Health
Publication statusPublished - 2002


  • cost-effectiveness
  • decision making
  • economic evaluation
  • health policy

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