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Value for money of changing healthcare services? Economic evaluation of quality improvement
  1. J L Severens
  1. Correspondence to:
 J L Severens PhD, University of Maastricht/University Hospital Maastricht, Department of Health Organisation, Policy, and Economics/Department of Clinical Epidemiology and MTA, P O Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands; 


There are many instances of perceived or real inefficiencies in health service delivery. Both healthcare providers and policy makers need to know the impact and cost of applying strategies to change the behaviour of individuals or organisations. Quality improvement or implementation research is concerned with evaluating the methods of behavioural change. Addressing inefficiencies in healthcare services raises a series of issues, beginning with how inefficiency itself should be defined. The basic concepts of cost analysis and economic evaluations are explained and a model for working through the economic issues of quality improvement is discussed. This model combines the costs and benefits of corrected inefficiency with the costs and degree of behavioural change achieved by a quality improvement method in the policy maker’s locality. It shows why it may not always be cost effective for policy makers to address suboptimal behaviour. Both the interpretation of quality improvement research findings and their local application need careful consideration. The limited availability of applicable quality improvement research may make it difficult to provide robust advice on the value for money of many behavioural quality improvement strategies.

  • quality improvement research
  • health policy
  • cost effectiveness analysis

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