The 99th Health Economics Study Group (HESG) meeting has just taken place (5-7th January 2022) at the University of Leeds. The HESG always makes for a great conference with excellent discussion and input into ongoing research. This is partly down to the unique set up of the meeting, whereby authors submit their work but they do not give a presentation of it. Instead, a discussant is assigned to read their paper and present a discussion of the research, forming a discussion agenda to encourage the audience to engage and input their thoughts and ideas.
The format truly allows for spontaneous brainstorming among the delegates and more often than not the authors leave with lots of interesting ideas, comments and suggestions to take forward in improving their work.
This Winter we were delighted to have our own Research Fellow, Giovanni Tramonti, representing Edinburgh Health Economics at the meeting. Giovanni was a discussant for a paper and kindly presented Elizabeth Lemmon’s et al’s work in the poster session – “The use of social care services by patients aged 50 and over diagnosed with colorectal cancer in Scotland”.
This work is the first in Scotland to analyse national data on social care service use by patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Check out the full poster below (all results are preliminary):
2019 European International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes (ISPOR)
As a PhD student working on a project that is on the borderline of Data Science, Medical Informatics and Health Technology Assessment, I felt it was crucial for me to attend this year’s European International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes (ISPOR) – the leading professional international organisation for health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) – conference held in Copenhagen, in early November. This was the biggest conference of its kind to date on the continent and had the main theme of ‘Digital Transformation of Healthcare: Changing Roles and Sharing Responsibilities’. The event attracted more than 5,500 global healthcare stakeholders and HEOR thought leaders representing more than 90 countries from all sectors of healthcare, including researchers and academics, assessors and regulators, payers and policymakers, the life sciences industry, healthcare providers, and patient engagement organisations.
Before the main conference began, I attended two hands-on pre-conference half day courses in budget impact analysis and model design held by world-leading experts. The organisers provided very detailed, useful printed course materials and software-based modelling tools that I plan to utilise during the implementation stage of my PhD.
The conference opened with the first plenary session on the 4th November, “Healthcare Digitalization: Instant, On Demand, and Always Connected.” New technologies are driving change in healthcare systems; influencing the way diseases are prevented, diagnosed, and treated. This panel explored the issue of digitizing healthcare and how this is impacting healthcare and health systems globally.
The second plenary session, “Shaping the Digital Healthcare System,” was held on the 5th November. Healthcare is changing rapidly with this transformation impacting every area of the healthcare system, including its structures, processes, policies, and practices. This panel examined how those working in healthcare are adapting to these unprecedented technological developments to deliver more productive, effective, and personalised care for patients.
The third and final plenary session, held on the 6th November, discussed the topic “Big Healthcare Data: Endless Opportunities for Research and Learning”. Big data present a tremendous opportunity for the measurement and reporting of quality in healthcare that can enhance insight and decision making. In this session, panellists discussed a number of examples where experts are effectively using big data for research and to drive learning at the healthcare system level.
ISPOR CEO and Executive Director Nancy S. Berg stated, “ISPOR Europe 2019 featured many innovative sessions centering on healthcare transformation fuelled by digital technologies. ISPOR’s largest conference to date (with more than 5500 registrants) convened a wide variety of healthcare stakeholders to help solve many of the challenges that impact healthcare and to advance HEOR excellence to improve healthcare decisions globally.”
A paradigm-shift featuring technological and system-wise transformation are therefore unavoidable. Coverage of the new, most efficient interventions and their support-mechanisms at scale pose an unsustainable financial and capacity burden on health systems worldwide. Thus, affordability issues in health care are perceived as a ‘global crisis’ today. Consequently, patient-level real-world data should be exploited to create affordable value-added health services.
Utilisation of vast healthcare data, creating better software applications and back-end IT infrastructure to generate real-world evidence, which can be used directly by healthcare decisions-makers regarding the adoption and distribution of new innovative health technologies, are all prominent topics on policy-makers’ agendas. Overall, this can promote more efficient health care provision and ensure better patient outcomes. We are in the midst of an era in which organisations and governmental bodies around the Globe have teamed up and really started to exploit data assets at scale by utilising the most advanced information technologies to solve a broad range of urging problems that challenges health systems’ sustainability and operations today. For me, witnessing these remarkable initiatives and actual transformations across Europe was an invaluable learning experience.
Health Economics at the 9th International Seminar of the European Palliative Care Research Centre
At the end of October (23rd to 25th), I travelled to Krems in Austria to attend the 9th International Seminar of the European Palliative Care Research Centre (EPCRC). In this post, I will offer my thoughts on the conference and tell you a little about my work which I presented there.
This was the second time I have attended the EPCRC conference- last year it was held here in Edinburgh. Whilst I enjoyed the conference last year, my reflection was that the health economics voice was definitely lacking. So, I was really hoping for good things for the conference in Krems- especially since for me this meant travelling to my home turf! I am happy to report that I was not disappointed. This year’s presentations included a lot of health economic considerations and health economics featured as a core topic throughout. For example, a talk by Professor Nathan Cherny form Israel was mainly focussed on the Health Technology Assessment process and how it links to the Magnitude of the Clinical Benefit scale. Anna Kitta from Austria and David Blum from Switzerland presented study proposals in the area of eHealth mentioning the potential costs savings for the health care systems through to technological innovation.
I also had the great opportunity to present on the Friday morning of the conference. Having attended the conference before, I knew that the audience won’t come from a health economics background. I was therefore mindful that the mention of economics alongside end of life care might have triggered in their minds the ever present myth that Economists want to take resources away from these settings. I therefore made it my mission to ensure that I convinced the audience otherwise! I decided to split my presentation into two parts. I started with the topic “The (in)compatibility of health economics and end of life care”. In this first part, I introduced some of the key health economics ideas and summed up the importance and the challenges that health economics faces, particularly with respect to end of life care. I also outlined the current situation in the UK and presented some new developments in methodological research. Hoping that I had managed to bust some health economics myths, the second part of my presentation covered the “Health economics in the EPAT study”. In this part, I showed a bit of applied health economics, presenting the economic results of a cluster randomised controlled trial testing a systematic approach in the assessment and management of cancer pain. Both presentations were well received and prompted lively discussions, so I was very happy with that.
The overall quality of the presentations at the conference, as well as the presented topics, were very well chosen and incredibly relevant to the developing field of health economics within end of life care. I got the impression that early palliative care is a major focus within the community and there is definitely a shift towards making palliative care services more flexible and patient centred. Another commonly discussed topic, which linked well with my presentation, was the potential “overtreatment” of patients in the last phase of their life.
An additional main focus of the conference was on Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) , which is of great importance for the methods development of health economics. I could take away that not just the health economists but also clinical professionals are very aware that patient questionnaires designed for a curative setting are not fit for purpose in an end of life situation.
I hope to attend next year’s conference and I am curious to see if the trend of increasing awareness and representation of health economics continues. You’ll see below some photos from the lovely Austrian dinner which the conference organisers put on for us, with traditional music and dances performed by the children group from the “Wachauer Trachten und Heimatverein Krems”.