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Med Decis Making. 2008 May-Jun;28(3):300-5. doi: 10.1177/0272989X07312477. Epub 2008 May 13.

The option value of delay in health technology assessment.

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  • 1Flinders University Centre for Clinical Change and Health Care Research, Adelaide, Australia.


Processes of health technology assessment (HTA) inform decisions under uncertainty about whether to invest in new technologies based on evidence of incremental effects, incremental cost, and incremental net benefit monetary (INMB). An option value to delaying such decisions to wait for further evidence is suggested in the usual case of interest, in which the prior distribution of INMB is positive but uncertain.


of estimating the option value of delaying decisions to invest have previously been developed when investments are irreversible with an uncertain payoff over time and information is assumed fixed. However, in HTA decision uncertainty relates to information (evidence) on the distribution of INMB. This article demonstrates that the option value of delaying decisions to allow collection of further evidence can be estimated as the expected value of sample of information (EVSI). For irreversible decisions, delay and trial (DT) is demonstrated to be preferred to adopt and no trial (AN) when the EVSI exceeds expected costs of information, including expected opportunity costs of not treating patients with the new therapy. For reversible decisions, adopt and trial (AT) becomes a potentially optimal strategy, but costs of reversal are shown to reduce the EVSI of this strategy due to both a lower probability of reversal being optimal and lower payoffs when reversal is optimal. Hence, decision makers are generally shown to face joint research and reimbursement decisions (AN, DT and AT), with the optimal choice dependent on costs of reversal as well as opportunity costs of delay and the distribution of prior INMB.

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