Alternatives to the QALY measure for economic evaluations
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Economic analyses (i.e., analyses that are concerned primarily with questions of resource allocation) are becoming more common in health care in general and care of cancer patients in particular. The most commonly used measure for the valuation of outcome in such analyses is the QALY (quality-adjusted life-years), which combines qualitative (i.e., quality of life) and quantitative (i.e., survival) aspects of the outcome into one dimension. Using economics (i.e., the discipline) as the mode of thinking to help solve problems of resource allocation in health, this paper describes a framework to evaluate the appropriateness of use of a measure of outcome in the context of an economic evaluation. This framework will be used to critically appraise the use of the QALY measure and of two alternative measures, HYE (healthy years equivalent) and WTP (willingness to pay), in economic evaluations of health care interventions. The paper also describes a practical tool that can be used to measure individuals' WTP in the context of public decision making. This tool involves modifying the decision board, a tool develop (originally in the cancer area) to help clinicians present information to patients. The intent is to show that the use of a theoretically superior measure of outcome need not always be empirically restrictive.
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