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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

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Health Economics Information Resources: A Self-Study Course

Module 3: Identification and Retrieval of Published Health Economic Evaluation Studies

Mislabeling of economic studies

Some economic studies which claim to be full economic evaluations may in fact only be partial evaluations. A study by Zarnke et al* found that, of a set of economic studies labeled as cost-benefit analyses:
  • 68% did not use defined CBA methodology
  • 53% were found to be only cost comparisons,i.e., partial evaluations
*Zarnke, KB; Levine, MAH; O’Brien, BJ. Cost-benefit analyses in the health-care literature: don’t judge a study by its label. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 1997;50:813-822

Consequences of mislabeling

Important consequences may occur as a result of mislabeling. Mislabeling of partial evaluations as full economic evaluations has the potential to misinform the health care decision-making process. It can also result in the incorrect application of indexing terms to studies that are indexed for bibliographic databases (through no fault of the indexer!) - thus making it more challenging in identifying studies which are true economic evaluations.

 

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