“I’ll have a bit of economics with that”: Incorporating an economic perspective into allied health services research and funding
Health economic appraisal is about value, especially comparative value. What is the most valuable improvement in health care that we can obtain from our scarce health resources, given that the latter have value in terms of the next best outcome we might obtain from them. Allied health practitioners are increasingly examining the relevance of such ideas to their services.
With the progressive application of high technology health care to an ageing population, we have come to recognise that there are insufficient resources to provide all forms of care that might have some claim to be effective. We face tragic choices and need to use the most appropriate forms of evaluation to minimise unnecessary pain and suffering. Health technologies and services must be demonstrated not only to be safe, effective and of high quality, but also to represent the best use of society’s scarce resources.
Health economic appraisal is much more than a superficial accounting exercise. At its heart are strong assertions about how citizens and their government understand value and make choices. The measurement of both costs and health outcomes is subject to debate, as is the manner in which they should be compared. To be able to interpret, let alone participate in, any form of health economic appraisal requires a nuanced understanding of both the possibilities and limitations of this endeavour and how it can lead to better health for individual patients and the population.
John Moss is enjoying an active retirement during which he is continuing to conduct research and teaching. John’s current research includes an economic analysis in conjunction with a randomised controlled trial in the management of atrial fibrillation. He is also supervising three doctoral students in health services research and health economics. He is a project grant panel member for the NHMRC. He is a member of a team providing consulting services to the Economics SubCommittee of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, reporting on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of medicines proposed for inclusion in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. He is also a member of the South Australian Formulary Committee. He teaches a postgraduate course in the foundations of public health and provides occasional lectures in both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in public health.