Objectives: To develop a framework for defining the potential value of diagnostic testing, and discuss its implications for the health-care delivery system.
Methods: We reviewed the conceptual and empirical literature related to the valuing of diagnostic tests, and used this information to create a framework for characterizing their value. We then made inferences about the impact of this framework on health insurance coverage, health technology assessment, physician-patient relationships, and public health policy.
Results: Three dimensions can effectively classify the potential value created by diagnostic tests: 1) medical value (impact on treatment decisions); 2) planning value (affect on patients' ability to make better life decisions); and 3) psychic value (how test information affects patients' sense of self). This comprehensive framework for valuing diagnostics suggests that existing health technology assessments may systematically under- or overvalue diagnostics, leading to potentially incorrect conclusions about cost-effectiveness. Further, failure to account for all value dimensions may lead to distorted payments under a value-based health-care system.
Conclusions: The potential value created by medical diagnostics incorporates medical value as well as value associated with well-being and planning. Consideration of all three dimensions has important implications for technology assessment and value-based payment.