Introduction to health economics and decision-making: Is economics relevant for the frontline clinician?
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In a climate of escalating demands for new health care services and significant constraints on new resources, the disciplines of health economics and health technology assessment (HTA) have increasingly been turned to as explicit evidence-based frameworks to help make tough health care access and reimbursement decisions. Health economics is the discipline of economics concerned with the efficient allocation of health care resources, essentially trying to maximize health benefits to society contingent upon available resources. HTA is a broader field drawing upon several disciplines, but which relies heavily upon the tools of health economics and economic evaluation. Traditionally, health economics and economic evaluation have been widely used at the political (macro) and local (meso) decision-making levels, and have progressively had an important role even at informing individual clinical decisions (micro level). The aim of this paper is to introduce readers to health economics and discuss its relevance to frontline clinicians. Particularly, the content of the paper will facilitate clinicians' understanding of the link between economics and their medical practice, and how clinical decision-making reflects on health care resource allocation.
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