Evaluating new (and old) technologies: The role of economic analysis
As new technologies become available for preventing and treating illness, the costs of health care will inevitably rise. Those who develop, assess, and use new interventions need to become familiar with the methods of economic analysis. Cost-minimization studies compare two or more interventions that have identical outcomes; cost-effectiveness studies measure outcomes in terms of lives saved, years of life gained, and so on; and cost-benefit studies measure both costs and outcomes in economic terms. The perspective (who pays and who experiences the outcomes), the sources of estimates for costs and effectiveness, and the method for accounting for temporal preferences for money and health are all important factors in performing and evaluating economic analysis. When comparing two or more interventions, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio is almost always more important than the average cost-effectiveness ratio. Study design and implementation are as important for economic analyses as they are for clinical trials; familiarity with these methods will enable gynecologists to better evaluate and implement new technologies and techniques.
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