Background: Four hurdles associated with economic evaluations in welfare interventions were identified and discussed in a previous published literature review. These hurdles include (i) 'Ignoring the impact of condition-specific outcomes', (ii) 'Ignoring the impact of QoL externalities', (iii) 'Calculation of costs from a too narrow perspective' and (iv) 'The lack of well-described & standardized interventions'. This study aims to determine how healthcare providers and social workers experience and deal with these hurdles in practice and what solutions or new insights they would suggest.
Methods: Twenty-two professionals of welfare interventions carried out in Flanders, were interviewed about the four described hurdles using a semi-structured interview. A thematic framework was developed to enable the qualitative analysis. The analysis of the semi-structured interviews was facilitated through the use of the software program QRS NVivo 10.
Results: The interviews revealed a clear need to tackle these hurdles. The interviewees confirmed that further study of condition-specific outcomes in economic evaluations are needed, especially in the field of mental health and stress. The proposed dimensions for the condition-specific questionnaires varied however between the groups of interviewees (i.e. general practitioners vs social workers). With respect to QoL externalities, the interviewees confirmed that welfare interventions have an impact on the social environment of the patient (friends and family). There was however no consensus on how this impact of QoL externalities should be taken into account in welfare interventions. Professionals also suggested that besides health care costs, the impact of welfare interventions on work productivity, the patients' social life and other items should be incorporated. Standardization appears to be of limited added value for most of the interviewees because they need a certain degree of freedom to interpret the intervention. Furthermore, the target population of the interventions is diverse which requires a tailor-made approach.
Conclusion: This qualitative research demonstrated that these hurdles occur in practice. The proposed solutions for these hurdles can contribute to the improvement of the methodological quality of economic evaluations of welfare interventions.
Keywords: Welfare intervention; broad societalperspective; economic evaluation; policy; quality of life.