Background: The use of economic evaluations in healthcare decision-making can potentially help decision-makers in allocating scarce resources as efficiently as possible. Over a decade ago, the use of such studies was found to be limited in Dutch healthcare decision-making, but their current use is unknown. Therefore, this study aimed to provide insight into the current and potential use of economic evaluations in Dutch healthcare decision-making and to identify barriers and facilitators to the use of such studies.
Methods: Interviews containing semi-structured and structured questions were conducted among Dutch healthcare decision-makers. Participants were purposefully selected and special efforts were made to include decision-makers working at the macro- (national), meso- (local/regional), and micro-level (patient setting). During the interviews, a topic list was used that was based on the research questions and a literature search, and was developed in consultation with the Dutch National Healthcare Institute. Responses to the semi-structured questions were analyzed using a constant comparative approach. As for the structured questions, participants' definitions of various economic evaluation concepts were scored as either being "correct" or "incorrect" by two researchers, and summary statistics were prepared.
Results: Sixteen healthcare decision-makers were interviewed and two health economists. Decision-makers' knowledge of economic evaluations was only modest, and their current use appeared to be limited. Nonetheless, decision-makers recognized the importance of economic evaluations and saw several opportunities for extending their use at the macro- and meso-level, but not at the micro-level. The disparity between the limited use and recognition of the importance of economic evaluations is likely due to the many barriers decision-makers experience preventing their use (e.g. lack of resources, lack of formal willingness-to-pay threshold). Possible facilitators for extending the use of economic evaluations include, amongst others, educating decision-makers and the general population about economic evaluations and presenting economic evaluation results in a clearer and more understandable way.
Conclusions: This study demonstrated that the current use and impact of economic evaluations in Dutch healthcare decision-making is limited at best. Therefore, strategies are needed to overcome the barriers that currently prevent economic evaluations from being used extensively.
Keywords: Barriers and facilitators; Economic evaluation; Healthcare decision-making; Use.