Background: Key stakeholders regard generic utility instruments as suitable tools to inform health technology assessment decision-making regarding allocation of resources across competing interventions. These instruments require a 'descriptor', a 'valuation' and a 'perspective' of the economic evaluation. There are various approaches that can be taken for each of these, offering a potential lack of consistency between instruments (a basic requirement for comparisons across diseases). The 'reference method' has been proposed as a way to address the limitations of the Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY). However, the degree to which generic measures can assess patients' specific experiences with their disease would remain unresolved. This has been neglected in the discussions on methods development and its impact on the QALY values obtained and resulting cost per QALY estimate underestimated. This study explored the content of utility instruments relevant to type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease (AD) as examples, and the role of qualitative research in informing the trade-off between content coverage and consistency.
Method: A literature review was performed to identify qualitative and quantitative studies regarding patients' experiences with type 2 diabetes or AD, and associated treatments. Conceptual models for each indication were developed. Generic- and disease-specific instruments were mapped to the conceptual models.
Results: Findings showed that published descriptions of relevant concepts important to patients with type 2 diabetes or AD are available for consideration in deciding on the most comprehensive approach to utility assessment. While the 15-dimensional health related quality of life measure (15D) seemed the most comprehensive measure for both diseases, the Health Utilities Index 3 (HUI 3) seemed to have the least coverage for type 2 diabetes and the EuroQol-5 Dimensions (EQ-5D) for AD. Furthermore, some of the utility instruments contained items that could not be mapped onto either of the proposed conceptual models.
Conclusions: Content of the utility measure has a significant impact on the treatment effects that can be observed. This varies from one disease to the next and as such contributes to lack of consistency in observable utility effects and incremental utility scores. This observation appears to have been omitted from the method development considerations such as reference methods. As a result, we recommend that patients' perspectives obtained via qualitative methods are taken into consideration in the ongoing methods development in health state descriptions for generic utility instruments. Also, as a more immediate contribution to improving decision making, we propose that a content map of the chosen utility measure with patient-reported domains be provided as standard reporting in utility measurement in order to improve the transparency of the trade-offs in relation to patient relevance and consistency.