Objective: To examine the increasing use of health economic studies and practical implications of evaluating their quality utilizing the Quality of Health Economic Studies (QHES) instrument.
Methods: We first reviewed secondary references to examine ways in which health economic analyses are used in different health care settings, the manner in which these data are appraised and evaluated, and their relevance and value in decision making. The QHES, a new instrument designed to support fast, accurate initial assessments of study quality, was then introduced and validated. A case study was performed using the QHES to score the quality of 30 cost-effectiveness studies in gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) published since 1985. Areas where additional research could guide efforts to identify and enhance the use of higher-quality cost-effectiveness studies were suggested.
Results: Results from the published validation study of the QHES demonstrated the validity of this new instrument. The resulting QHES scores in the case study of GERD papers ranged from 43 to 91 with a mean of 63.6 (SD=14.7). Approximately 27% of the studies rated had scores less than 50, and 27% had scores above or equal to 75. All 30 studies made conclusions and recommendations and justified them based on their study results. Most studies used appropriate cost and health outcome measures. Very few studies stated the perspective of their analysis and reasons for its selection. The majority of the studies did not perform incremental analysis.
Conclusion: An examination of the QHES validation study and the case study in GERD suggests that there is a rationale and potential utility to use a quality scoring system for cost-effectiveness studies. The QHES may play an important role in discriminating higher-quality cost-effectiveness information to enhance decision making. The QHES can also serve as a guideline for conducting and reporting future cost-effectiveness studies, as an aid in the editorial process, and for stratification in systematic reviews. Complex decisions regarding resource allocation rarely rely solely on economic considerations but do increasingly use health economic analyses. To the extent that such analyses are used, the QHES may help ensure that higher-quality analyses receive more analytic attention and greater weight in the decision-making process.