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The equivalence of numbers: The social value of avoiding health decline: An experimental web-based study

Author(s): Schwappach David

Journal: BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
ISSN 1472-6947

Volume: 2;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 3;
Date: 2002;
Original page

Abstract Background Health economic analysis aimed at informing policy makers and supporting resource allocation decisions has to evaluate not only improvements in health but also avoided decline. Little is known however, whether the "direction" in which changes in health are experienced is important for the public in prioritizing among patients. This experimental study investigates the social value people place on avoiding (further) health decline when directly compared to curative treatments in resource allocation decisions. Methods 127 individuals completed an interactive survey that was published in the World Wide Web. They were confronted with a standard gamble (SG) and three person trade-off tasks, either comparing improvements in health (PTO-Up), avoided decline (PTO-Down), or both, contrasting health changes of equal magnitude differing in the direction in which they are experienced (PTO-WAD). Finally, a direct priority ranking of various interventions was obtained. Results Participants strongly prioritized improving patients' health rather than avoiding decline. The mean substitution rate between health improvements and avoided decline (WAD) ranged between 0.47 and 0.64 dependent on the intervention. Weighting PTO values according to the direction in which changes in health are experienced improved their accuracy in predicting a direct prioritization ranking. Health state utilities obtained by the standard gamble method seem not to reflect social values in resource allocation contexts. Conclusion Results suggest that the utility of being cured of a given health state might not be a good approximation for the societal value of avoiding this health state, especially in cases of competition between preventive and curative interventions.
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