Objective: Economic evaluations such as cost-effectiveness and cost-utility analyses generally fail to incorporate elements of intangible costs and benefits, such as anxiety and discomfort associated with the screening test and diagnostic test, as well as the magnitude of utility associated with a reduction in the risk of dying from cancer. This paper seeks to include all costs and effects incurred by introducing mammography screening through the application of discrete ranking modeling.
Methods: In the present analysis, 207 women were interviewed and asked to rank, according to priority, a number of alternative breast cancer screening setups. The alternative programs varied with respect to number of tests performed, risk reduction obtained, probability of a false-positive outcome, and extent of copayment. Using discrete ranking modeling, the stated preferences were analyzed and the relative weighting of the program attributes identified. For a range of hypothetical breast cancer programs, relative utilities and corresponding willingness-to-pay estimates were derived.
Results: A comparison of cost and willingness to pay for each of the programs suggested that net benefits are maximized when screening person aged 50-74 years biennially. More intensive screening produces lower or similar levels of utility at a higher cost.
Conclusion: Discrete ranking modeling can aid decision making by identifying inferior healthcare programs, i.e., programs that are more costly but less beneficial.