A comparison of two methods for expert elicitation in health technology assessments.
BMC Medical Research Methodology
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BACKGROUND: When data needed to inform parameters in decision models are lacking, formal elicitation of expert judgement can be used to characterise parameter uncertainty. Although numerous methods for eliciting expert opinion as probability distributions exist, there is little research to suggest whether one method is more useful than any other method. This study had three objectives: (i) to obtain subjective probability distributions characterising parameter uncertainty in the context of a health technology assessment; (ii) to compare two elicitation methods by eliciting the same parameters in different ways; (iii) to collect subjective preferences of the experts for the different elicitation methods used. METHODS: Twenty-seven clinical experts were invited to participate in an elicitation exercise to inform a published model-based cost-effectiveness analysis of alternative treatments for prostate cancer. Participants were individually asked to express their judgements as probability distributions using two different methods - the histogram and hybrid elicitation methods - presented in a random order. Individual distributions were mathematically aggregated across experts with and without weighting. The resulting combined distributions were used in the probabilistic analysis of the decision model and mean incremental cost-effectiveness ratios and the expected values of perfect information (EVPI) were calculated for each method, and compared with the original cost-effectiveness analysis. Scores on the ease of use of the two methods and the extent to which the probability distributions obtained from each method accurately reflected the expert's opinion were also recorded. RESULTS: Six experts completed the task. Mean ICERs from the probabilistic analysis ranged between £162,600-£175,500 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) depending on the elicitation and weighting methods used. Compared to having no information, use of expert opinion decreased decision uncertainty: the EVPI value at the £30,000 per QALY threshold decreased by 74-86 % from the original cost-effectiveness analysis. Experts indicated that the histogram method was easier to use, but attributed a perception of more accuracy to the hybrid method. CONCLUSIONS: Inclusion of expert elicitation can decrease decision uncertainty. Here, choice of method did not affect the overall cost-effectiveness conclusions, but researchers intending to use expert elicitation need to be aware of the impact different methods could have.
This paper presents independent research funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) for the South West Peninsula.
BMC Medical Research Methodology (2016) 16:85
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