Cost-effectiveness is a necessary consideration across all research. Health economics provides a framework for measuring and evaluating cost and value of any health intervention or program – not only to the individual, but to society in general.
Such considerations are particularly important when seeking government subsidies for listing new technologies and pharmaceuticals.
The role of health economics is therefore an important platform for WAHTN as it is an essential element which facilitates the translation of favourable clinical data into routine practice and patient outcomes.
Within Western Australia, capacity has been building in recent years, although there is still a considerable shortage of skilled health economists. WAHTN has aided the health economics sector in WA by facilitating collaboration across institutions to maximise capabilities and by developing programs and initiatives to raise awareness about the role health economics plays.
A notable outcome has been the establishment of WATCHE (Western Australian Translation and Collaboration in Health Economics) where membership from all institutions across Western Australia is encouraged. This was founded through a strong collaboration between Curtin University and UWA (Associate Professor Suzanne Robinson and Professor Elizabeth Geelhoed) but has grown to encompass input from several health and medical research institutes, universities, hospitals and the WA department of Health.
WATCHE ran two training workshops in 2016 and facilitates regular meetings to encourage cross-institutional collaboration, discuss current systems and methodological issues in on-going research projects. The group is also a forum to facilitate the development of research ideas and welcomes researchers from other fields interested in applied health economics.
As part of WATCHE activities, the National Health Economics Conference was held in Western Australia in September 2016.
Furthermore, collaborative research is currently being undertaken between health economists at WA universities, metropolitan hospitals, primary care and community groups regarding a range of interventions including mental health, Indigenous health and cardiovascular disease.
Selected examples include:
- Development of a health economics model of socio-demographic correlates of health-related quality of life in a Baby-Boomer population, based on the Raine cohort.
Chief Investigators: Richard Norman, Suzanne Robinson, Leon Straker, Romola Bucks, Michael Hunter, Elizabeth Geelhoed.
- A programme to identify need, supply and cost of health across WA to inform priority setting and resource allocation decision making within Primary Care. See: Better health, better care, better value. WA Health Reform Program 2015–2020.
- An international collaborative project with Academics from the University of Liverpool, University of Southampton, Erasmus University Rotterdam and University of Bologna that examines preferences for equity and efficiency of policy-makers in priority setting in a number of countries.
- An internationally collaborative project has been recently finalised, and the findings have been accepted for publication in a book chapter focusing on the emerging concept ‘boundaryless hospitals’.
- As part of the emerging application of discrete choice analysis, a project to address preferences in insulin delivery for children with Type 1 Diabetes.
Collectively, WA health economists have strong representation on national committees including the Medical Benefits Scheme review task-force, the Medical Services Advisory Committee, Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, NHMRC panels for Partnership Centres, Centres for Research Excellence and Project grants, alongside national and international health economics associations.
WAHTN will continue to build capacity in this area via initiatives to encourage PhD students in this field, and further education in health economics for researchers’ appreciation of economic contribution through network opportunities.