Objective: To determine if a pre-assessment can be used to establish whether cost-effectiveness results would meet the actual information needs of Dutch healthcare decision makers.
Methods: Two recent studies in rehabilitation medicine served as study material. Based on Wholey, a limited pre-assessment was performed in which the potential impact of cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) results on intended users' decision making was assessed. Desk research and semi-structured interviews with several intended users of CEA results were performed. These included general practitioners, representatives of health insurance companies, the Health Care Insurance Board (CvZ), and medical guidelines committees.
Results: In day-to-day decision making of the interviewed decision makers, a cost-effectiveness criterion seemed to be of limited importance. Instead, results from clinical effectiveness studies and budget impact studies appeared to be sufficient. CvZ, however, preferred relative cost-effectiveness to be a criterion for inclusion in future reimbursement guidelines. In both cases the limited pre-assessments changed the expectations of the investigators regarding decision-making impact of an economic evaluation.
Conclusion: This study revealed that the use of CEA results for Dutch micro- and meso-level healthcare decision making is not self-evident. The main purpose of CEA results is to support health policy making and planning at a macroeconomic level. Pre-assessment can be a valuable tool in designing a CEA to support the actual information needs of the decision makers.