Background: An economic evaluation was performed alongside a randomised controlled trial (ISRCTN 74071417) investigating the cost-effectiveness of nurse-led telephone follow-up instead of hospital visits, and of a short educational group programme (EGP) in the first year after breast cancer treatment.
Method: This economic evaluation (n = 299) compared the one-year costs and the effects of four follow-up strategies: (1) hospital follow-up; (2) nurse-led telephone follow-up; (3) hospital follow-up plus EGP; and (4) nurse-led telephone follow-up plus EGP. Costs were measured using cost diaries and hospital registrations. Quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were measured using the EQ-5D. Outcomes were expressed in incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) and cost-effectiveness acceptability curves.
Results: Hospital follow-up plus EGP yielded most QALYs (0.776), but also incurred the highest mean annual costs (€4914). The ICER of this strategy versus the next best alternative, nurse-led telephone follow-up plus EGP (0.772 QALYs and €3971), amounted to €235.750/QALY. Hospital and telephone follow-up without EGP both incurred higher costs and less QALYs than telephone follow-up plus EGP and were judged inferior. Hospital follow-up plus EGP was not considered cost-effective, therefore, telephone follow-up plus EGP was the preferred strategy. The probability of telephone follow-up plus EGP being cost-effective ranged from 49% to 62% for different QALY threshold values. Secondary and sensitivity analyses showed that results were robust.
Conclusion: Nurse-led telephone follow-up plus EGP seems an appropriate and cost-effective alternative to hospital follow-up for breast cancer patients during their first year after treatment.
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