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Special Communication |

When Is It Cost-effective to Change the Behavior of Health Professionals?

James Mason, DPhil; Nick Freemantle, PhD; Irwin Nazareth, PhD; Martin Eccles, MD; Andrew Haines, MD; Michael Drummond, DPhil
JAMA. 2001;286(23):2988-2992. doi:10.1001/jama.286.23.2988.
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Because of the workings of health care systems, new, important, and cost-effective treatments sometimes do not become routine care while well-marketed products of equivocal value achieve widespread adoption. Should policymakers attempt to influence clinical behavior and correct for these inefficiencies? Implementation methods achieve a certain level of behavioral change but cost money to enact. These factors can be combined with the cost-effectiveness of treatments to estimate an overall policy cost-effectiveness. In general, policy cost-effectiveness is always less attractive than treatment cost-effectiveness. Consequently trying to improve the uptake of underused cost-effective care or reduce the overuse of new and expensive treatments may not always make economic sense. In this article, we present a method for calculating policy cost-effectiveness and illustrate it with examples from a recent trial, conducted during 1997 and 1998, of educational outreach by community pharmacists to influence physician prescribing in England.

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Figure. Flow Diagram of Steps Involved in the Decision to Influence Professional Behavior
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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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