Economic evaluation of diagnostic methods used in dentistry. A systematic review
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OBJECTIVES: To review the literature of economic evaluations regarding diagnostic methods used in dentistry. DATA SOURCES: Four databases (MEDLINE, Web of Science, The Cochrane library, the NHS Economic Evaluation Database) were searched for studies, complemented by hand search, until February 2013. STUDY SELECTION: Two authors independently screened all titles or abstracts and then applied inclusion and exclusion criteria to select full-text publications published in English, which reported an economic evaluation comparing at least two alternative methods. Studies of diagnostic methods were assessed by four reviewers using a protocol based on the QUADAS tool regarding diagnostic methods and a check-list for economic evaluations. The results of the data extraction were summarized in a structured table and as a narrative description. RESULTS: From 476 identified full-text publications, 160 were considered to be economic evaluations. Only 12 studies (7%) were on diagnostic methods, whilst 78 studies (49%) were on prevention and 70 (40%) on treatment. Among studies on diagnostic methods, there was between-study heterogeneity methodologically, regarding the diagnostic method analysed and type of economic evaluation addressed. Generally, the choice of economic evaluation method was not justified and the perspective of the study not stated. Costing of diagnostic methods varied. CONCLUSIONS: A small body of literature addresses economic evaluation of diagnostic methods in dentistry. Thus, there is a need for studies from various perspectives with well defined research questions and measures of the cost and effectiveness. CLINICAL SIGNIFICANCE: Economic resources in healthcare are finite. For diagnostic methods, an understanding of efficacy provides only part of the information needed for evidence-based practice. This study highlighted a paucity of economic evaluations of diagnostic methods used in dentistry, indicating that much of what we practise lacks sufficient evidence.
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