Every day, health care professionals have to make difficult decisions on how to use our limited financial resources. Which treatments and health initiatives should have priority? How should health care be financed and care providers paid? Health economics is about how these choices can be made. It concerns the consequences of decisions in terms of costs and patient benefit, the aim being to ensure the best possible public health given the resources we have.
Health economics and health policy
Health economics is about managing our limited health care resources, including public health measures, wisely. The basis of economics is that every time we make a choice — for instance, to implement a specific treatment or strategy — it means that we displace something else, and this is usually known as the “opportunity cost”. The issue is therefore invariably how the decisions we make affect both costs and patient benefit — “cost-effectiveness”. In policy research, we deal with similar issues to a large extent, but at a broader, societal level. It is about how regulations, legislation and other rules affect long-term public health in a population.
What bearing do patient costs have on health care utilisation and health outcomes?
What methods of cost-effectiveness analysis are available alongside clinical trials?
What impact does stroke have on quality of life and finances among patients’ relatives?
What are the socioeconomic consequences of antibiotic resistance?
What geographic disparities are there in cancer incidence and cancer screening?
How can measures to prevent fall injuries affect the success rate and cost-effectiveness of treating fall injuries?
Research in health economics is mostly performed using, first, large register databases from, for example, Statistics Sweden (SCB) and the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, combined with quality registers; and, second, large cohort studies. To some extent, especially in our studies of the cost-effectiveness of specific treatments, research based on randomised clinical trials is also carried out.
In health economics, we collaborate with both international and national research groups to a large extent. We are also involved in utilising and applying the knowledge gained in practical work within Swedish government agencies, regions and municipalities.
Our research group leaders’ commitments include participation in work involving:
priorities at the Swedish Dental and Pharmaceutical Benefits Agency
Region Västra Götaland and Region Halland’s work on evidence assessment and prioritisation.
There is close cooperation between the Institute’s research and our education and training, in which many of our researchers too are involved. They supervise doctoral students and teach on our regular programmes, freestanding courses and vocational care programmes within Sahlgrenska Academy.