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Researchers Seek Fundamental Answers on Devices

Article-Researchers Seek Fundamental Answers on Devices


InHealth's 2008 Research Projects

Peter Neumann, ScD
Tufts-New England Medical Center
2 years; $400,000
Measuring the Value of Diagnostic Technology

Amalia Issa, PhD, MPH
University of Houston
2 years; $398,000
Assessing the Clinical Adoption and Value of Genomic Diagnostics for Personalized Medicine

Max Stachura, MD
Medical College of Georgia Schools of Medicine and Nursing
2 years; $491,344
Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion/Insulin Pumps: An Impact Study

John Bridges, PhD
Johns Hopkins University
1 year; $200,000
Conjoint Analysis and the Economic Valuation of Medical Devices—An Application to Hearing Aids and Associated Technologies

John Linehan, PhD
Northwestern University Center for Translational Innovation
and Jan Pietzsch, PhD
Stanford University
1 year; $191,231
Assessing the Impact of Medical Technology in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

How, exactly, do medical devices and diagnostics affect health, both socially and economically? Those are the questions being asked by the Institute for Health Technology Studies (InHealth).

To find an answer, InHealth has granted $1.7 million to various researchers. These researchers are charged with examining the economic and social effects of diagnostic and therapeutic medical devices on treating diseases and chronic medical conditions. (See the sidebar, “InHealth's 2008 Research Projects.”)

The economic effect of medical technology is not well understood by users, manufacturers, or regulators, especially when estimating (or scoring) the cost of new laws. “It's ignored,” says Martyn Howgill, InHealth's executive director. When regulators score a technology, he says, they will often only look at the cost to the government. “Savings are included only if they benefit the federal budget, if there is clear evidence of them, and if they occur in applicable budget windows,” he says.

The goal of the InHealth grants, explains Howgill, is to study the ignored cost-benefit effects of devices. “We're trying to bring balance to the system,” he says. “If you only count the cost of healthcare and not the benefits, the percentage becomes disproportionate.”

Proving the benefit of devices is a significant challenge. There is a shortage of good methodologies for determining the value of medical technology, Howgill says. The researchers chosen by InHealth have new ideas about methodology that could give regulators a stronger idea of value, he says. For example, one researcher is using conjoint analysis, a statistical method often used in market research, to study the social and economic effect of hearing aids.

InHealth is a nonprofit organization specializing in research, analysis, and education about the social and economic value and impact of medical devices and diagnostics. “Our job is delivering and making grants,” Howgill explains. “We exist to provide evidence that is useful in making intelligent decisions.”

Copyright ©2009 Medical Device & Diagnostic Industry
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