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date: 23 April 2024

Problem Structuring in Economic Evaluationlocked

Problem Structuring in Economic Evaluationlocked

  • Rita FariaRita FariaCentre for Health Economics, University of York


Economic evaluation provides a framework to help inform decisions on which technologies represent the best use of healthcare resources (i.e., are cost-effective) by bringing together the available evidence about the benefits and costs of the alternative options. Critical to the economic evaluation framework is the need to accurately characterize the decision problem—this is the problem-structuring stage. Problem structuring encompasses the characterization of the target population; identification of the decision options to compare in the model (e.g., use of the technology in different ways, standard of care, etc.); and the development of the conceptual model, which maps out how the decision options relate to the costs and benefits in the target population. Problem structuring is central to the application of the economic evaluation framework and to development of the analysis, as it determines the specific questions that can be addressed and affects the relevance and credibility of the results. The methodological guidelines discuss problem structuring to some extent, although the practical implications warrant further consideration. With respect to the target population, questions emerge about how to define it, whether and which sources of heterogeneity to consider, and when and in whom to consider spillovers. Relating to the specification of decision options are questions about how to identify and select them, including restricting the comparison to standard of care, sequences of tests and/or treatments, and “do-nothing” approaches. There are also issues relating to the role and the process of development of the conceptual model. Based on a review of methodological guidelines and reflections on their implications, various recommendations for practice emerge. The process of developing the conceptual model and how to use it to inform choices and assumptions in the economic evaluation are two areas where further research is warranted.


  • Health, Education, and Welfare Economics

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