An introduction to Markov modelling for economic evaluation

Pharmacoeconomics. 1998 Apr;13(4):397-409. doi: 10.2165/00019053-199813040-00003.


Markov models are often employed to represent stochastic processes, that is, random processes that evolve over time. In a healthcare context, Markov models are particularly suited to modelling chronic disease. In this article, we describe the use of Markov models for economic evaluation of healthcare interventions. The intuitive way in which Markov models can handle both costs and outcomes make them a powerful tool for economic evaluation modelling. The time component of Markov models can offer advantages of standard decision tree models, particularly with respect to discounting. This paper gives a comprehensive description of Markov modelling for economic evaluation, including a discussion of the assumptions on which the type of model is based, most notably the memoryless quality of Markov models often termed the 'Markovian assumption'. A hypothetical example of a drug intervention to slow the progression of a chronic disease is employed to demonstrate the modelling technique and the possible methods of analysing Markov models are explored. Analysts should be aware of the limitations of Markov models, particularly the Markovian assumption, although the adept modeller will often find ways around this problem.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Economics, Pharmaceutical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Markov Chains*
  • Models, Economic*