Allowing for uncertainty in economic evaluations: qualitative sensitivity analysis


Walker, D; Fox-Rushby, J; (2001) Allowing for uncertainty in economic evaluations: qualitative sensitivity analysis. Health policy and planning, 16 (4). pp. 435-43. ISSN 0268-1080

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Abstract

Sensitivity analysis allows analysts to explore the impact of uncertainty on their findings. It is an important part of any economic evaluation, and a lack of analysis is evidence of a poor quality study. Sensitivity analysis helps the analyst evaluate the reliability of conclusions for the context of the evaluation and can also facilitate consideration of the generalizability of results to other settings. The variety of one and multi-way sensitivity analyses offer simple and complementary approaches to evaluating the impact of uncertainty on the results and conclusions of economic evaluations. The paper begins with a brief discussion of the types of uncertainty that can arise in economic evaluation, and follows with suggestions of how to plan a justified sensitivity analysis. A number of specific techniques are worked through with examples, followed by a discussion of when it is best to use them. The main weakness associated with sensitivity analysis is the control that the analyst retains over three parts of the process: the choice of which variables to vary and which to treat as known or fixed; the amount of variation around the base value of the parameter that is considered clinically meaningful or policy-relevant; and the determination of what constitutes a sensitive or robust finding. It is therefore essential that the approach of the analyst is clear and justified. It is likely that the future will see further developments in the approaches and training of statistical analysis. But in the meantime, an increase in the number of evaluators undertaking a wider range of sensitivity analysis would improve the quality of evidence for, and outcomes of, decision-making.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Costs and Cost Analysis, *Evaluation Studies, Great Britain, Health Services Research/*economics/methods, Models, Econometric, Sensitivity and Specificity, Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, Costs and Cost Analysis, Evaluation Studies, Great Britain, Health Services Research, economics, methods, Models, Econometric, Sensitivity and Specificity, Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Public Health and Policy > Dept of Global Health and Development
PubMed ID: 11739369
Web of Science ID: 172867000013
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/16802

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