Clinical guidelines play a central role in day-to-day practice. We assessed the degree of incorporation of cost analyses to guidelines and identified modifiable characteristics that could affect the level of incorporation.
We selected the 100 most cited guidelines listed on the National Guideline Clearinghouse (http://www.guideline.gov) and determined the number of guidelines that used cost analyses in their reasoning and the overall percentage of incorporation of relevant cost analyses available in PubMed. Differences between medical specialties were also studied. Then, we performed a case–control study using incorporated and not incorporated cost analyses after 1:1 matching by study subject and compared them by the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS) statement requirements and other criteria.
We found that 57% of guidelines do not use any cost justification. Guidelines incorporate a weighted average of 6.0% (95% confidence interval [CI] 4.3–7.9) among 3396 available cost analyses, with cardiology and infectious diseases guidelines incorporating 10.8% (95% CI 5.3–18.1) and 9.9% (95% CI 3.9– 18.2), respectively, and hematology/oncology and urology guidelines incorporating 4.5% (95% CI 1.6–8.6) and 1.6% (95% CI 0.4–3.5), respectively. Based on the CHEERS requirements, the mean number of items reported by the 148 incorporated cost analyses was 18.6 (SD = 3.7), a small but significant difference over controls (17.8 items; P = 0.02). Included analyses were also more likely to directly relate cost reductions to healthcare outcomes (92.6% vs 81.1%, P = 0.004) and declare the funding source (72.3% vs 53.4%, P < 0.001), while similar number of cases and controls reported a noncommercial funding source (71% vs 72.7%; P = 0.8).
Guidelines remain an underused mechanism for the cost-effective allocation of available resources and a minority of practice guidelines incorporates cost analyses utilizing only 6% of the available cost analyses. Fulfilling the CHEERS requirements, directly relating costs with healthcare outcomes and transparently declaring the funding source seem to be valued by guideline-writing committees.