Value of information (VOI) is a tool that can be used to inform decisions concerning additional research in healthcare. VOI estimates the value of obtaining additional information and indicates the optimal design for additional research. Although it is recognized as good practice in handling uncertainty, it is still hardly used in decision making in the Netherlands.
This paper aims to examine the potential value of VOI, barriers and facilitators and the way forward with the use of VOI in the decision-making process for reimbursement of pharmaceuticals in the Netherlands.
Three focus group interviews were conducted with researchers, policy makers, and representatives of pharmaceutical companies.
The results revealed that although all stakeholders recognize the relevance of VOI, it is hardly used and many barriers to the performance and use of VOI were identified. One of these barriers is that not all uncertainties are easily incorporated in VOI, and the results may be biased if structural uncertainties are ignored. Furthermore, not all research designs indicated by VOI may be feasible in practice.
To fully embed VOI into current decision-making processes, a threshold incremental cost-effectiveness ratio and guidelines that clarify when and how VOI should be performed are needed. In addition, it should be clear to all stakeholders how the results of VOI are used in decision making.
The patient perspective is increasingly considered in healthcare policy decisions. The use of research on patient preferences seems however limited. Using the available research on patient preferences would make healthcare policy decisions more evidence-based regarding the patient perspective. Objective of this study is to investigate whether and how results of research on patient preferences are incorporated in current procedures for pharmaceutical coverage decisions and clinical practice guideline (CPG) development.
A document analysis on procedure descriptions was combined with case studies. Analyses were performed for five European countries. In the document analysis we systematically checked whether the procedure provides guidance on the systematic use of research on patient preferences, and whether the search and use of research on patient preferences is mentioned in the decision making procedure. In the case studies, which were for exploratory purposes, we scored whether or not research question on patient preferences were formulated, whether or not a search strategy including terms relating to patient preferences was mentioned, whether results of this search strategy were shown and finally, how many references with preference-related terms were included in the reference list of the case.
None of the procedures for pharmaceutical coverage decisions mentions the systematic consideration of research on patient preferences. For CPG development, the Scottish procedure refers to a mandatory literature search. In the Netherlands this step is optional. In the case studies for pharmaceutical coverage decisions only one reference related to patient preferences was found. Some of the case studies for CPG included research questions, search strategies and references relating to patient preferences.
This study illustrates that systematic consideration of research on patient preferences in pharmaceutical coverage decisions and guideline development is limited, or if taken into account, this is not visible. This contrasts the strong movement towards patient involvement in health care. Several potential barriers may explain the limited use of research on patient preferences.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-014-0540-2) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Patient preference; Pharmaceutical coverage; Clinical practice guideline
In the absence of a gold standard, a panel of experts can be invited to assign a reference diagnosis for use in research. Available literature offers limited guidance on assembling and working with an expert panel for this purpose. We aimed to develop a protocol for an expert panel consensus diagnosis and evaluated its applicability in a pilot project.
An adjusted Delphi method was used, which started with the assessment of clinical vignettes by 3 experts individually, followed by a consensus discussion meeting to solve diagnostic discrepancies. A panel facilitator ensured that all experts were able to express their views, and encouraged the use of argumentation to arrive at a specific diagnosis, until consensus was reached by all experts. Eleven vignettes of patients suspected of having a primary neurodegenerative disease were presented to the experts. Clinical information was provided stepwise and included medical history, neurological, physical and cognitive function, brain MRI scan, and follow-up assessments over 2 years. After the consensus discussion meeting, the procedure was evaluated by the experts.
The average degree of consensus for the reference diagnosis increased from 52% after individual assessment of the vignettes to 94% after the consensus discussion meeting. Average confidence in the diagnosis after individual assessment was 85%. This did not increase after the consensus discussion meeting. The process evaluation led to several recommendations for improvement of the protocol.
A protocol for attaining a reference diagnosis based on expert panel consensus was shown feasible in research practice.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12883-014-0190-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Reference diagnosis; Consensus panel; Delphi; Gold standard; Diagnostic validation; Incorporation bias; Multidimensional syndromes; Alzheimer’s disease
Post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) is a serious complication of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) of the leg that affects 20–50% of patients. Once a patient experiences PTS there is no treatment that effectively reduces the debilitating complaints. Two randomised controlled trials showed that elastic compression stocking (ECS) therapy after DVT for 24 months can reduce the incidence of PTS by 50%. However, it is unclear whether all patients benefit to the same extent from ECS therapy or what the optimal duration of therapy for individual patients should be. ECS therapy is costly, inconvenient, demanding and sometimes even debilitating. Tailoring therapy to individual needs could save substantial costs. The objective of the IDEAL DVT study, therefore, is to evaluate whether tailoring the duration of ECS therapy on signs and symptoms of the individual patient is a safe and effective method to prevent PTS, compared with standard ECS therapy.
Methods and analysis
A multicentre, single-blinded, allocation concealed, randomised, non-inferiority trial. A total of 864 consecutive patients with acute objectively documented proximal DVT of the leg are randomised to either standard duration of 24 months or tailored duration of ECS therapy following an initial therapeutic period of 6 months. Signs and symptoms of PTS are recorded at regular clinic visits. Furthermore, quality of life, costs, patient preferences and compliance are measured. The primary outcome is the proportion of patients with PTS at 24 months.
Ethics and dissemination
Based on current knowledge the standard application of ECS therapy is questioned. The IDEAL DVT study will address the central questions that remain unanswered: Which individual patients benefit from ECS therapy and what is the optimal individual treatment duration? Primary ethics approval was received from the Maastricht University Medical Centre.
Results of the study will be disseminated via peer-reviewed publications and presentations at scientific conferences.
Trial registration number
NCT01429714 and NTR 2597.
Post thrombotic syndrome; Deep vein thrombosis; Elastic compression stocking therapy; Protocol; RCT
Asymptomatic Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is associated with greater risk of acute cardiovascular events. This study aims to determine the cost-effectiveness of one time only PAD screening using Ankle Brachial Index (ABI) test and subsequent anti platelet preventive treatment (low dose aspirin or clopidogrel) in individuals at high risk for acute cardiovascular events compared to no screening and no treatment using decision analytic modelling.
A probabilistic Markov model was developed to evaluate the life time cost-effectiveness of the strategy of selective PAD screening and consequent preventive treatment compared to no screening and no preventive treatment. The analysis was conducted from the Dutch societal perspective and to address decision uncertainty, probabilistic sensitivity analysis was performed. Results were based on average values of 1000 Monte Carlo simulations and using discount rates of 1.5% and 4% for effects and costs respectively. One way sensitivity analyses were performed to identify the two most influential model parameters affecting model outputs. Then, a two way sensitivity analysis was conducted for combinations of values tested for these two most influential parameters.
For the PAD screening strategy, life years and quality adjusted life years gained were 21.79 and 15.66 respectively at a lifetime cost of 26,548 Euros. Compared to no screening and treatment (20.69 life years, 15.58 Quality Adjusted Life Years, 28,052 Euros), these results indicate that PAD screening and treatment is a dominant strategy. The cost effectiveness acceptability curves show 88% probability of PAD screening being cost effective at the Willingness To Pay (WTP) threshold of 40000 Euros. In a scenario analysis using clopidogrel as an alternative anti-platelet drug, PAD screening strategy remained dominant.
This decision analysis suggests that targeted ABI screening and consequent secondary prevention of cardiovascular events using low dose aspirin or clopidogrel in the identified patients is a cost-effective strategy. Implementation of targeted PAD screening and subsequent treatment in primary care practices and in public health programs is likely to improve the societal health and to save health care costs by reducing catastrophic cardiovascular events.
Cost-effectiveness; Peripheral arterial disease; Ankle brachial index; Decision model
Despite a strong movement towards active patient involvement in healthcare policy decisions, systematic and explicit consideration of evidence of this research on patient preferences seems limited. Furthermore, little is known about the opinions of several stakeholders towards consideration of research evidence on patient preferences in healthcare policy decisions. This paper describes the protocol for an explorative study on the integration of research on patient preferences in healthcare policy decisions. The study questions: to what extent research evidence on patient preferences is considered in current procedures for healthcare policy decisions; opinions of stakeholders regarding the integration of this type of evidence in healthcare policy decisions; and what could be a decision framework for the integration of such research evidence in healthcare policy decisions.
The study is divided in three sub-studies, predominantly using qualitative methods. The first sub-study is a scoping review in five European countries to investigate whether and how results of research on patient preferences are considered in current procedures for coverage decisions and clinical practice guideline development. The second sub-study is a qualitative study to explore the opinions of stakeholders with regard to the possibilities for integrating evidence on patient preferences in the process of healthcare decision-making in the Netherlands. The third sub-study is the development of a decision framework for research on patient preferences. The framework will consist of: a process description regarding the place of evidence on patient preferences in the decision-making process; and a taxonomy describing different terminologies and conceptualisations of ‘preferences’ and an overview of existing methodologies for investigating preferences. The concept framework will be presented to and discussed with experts.
This study will create awareness regarding the existence and potential value of research evidence on patient preferences for healthcare policy decision-making and provides insight in the methods for investigating patient preferences and the barriers and facilitators for integration of such research in healthcare policy decisions. Results of the study will be useful for researchers, clinical practice guideline developers, healthcare policy makers, and patient representatives.
Patient preference; Coverage decisions; Clinical practice guidelines; Decision framework; Taxonomy
Trends suggest that cancer spending growth will accelerate. One method for controlling costs is to examine whether the benefits of new technologies are worth the extra costs. We have shown that real options analysis provides a transparent method of weighing the costs and benefits of adopting and/or further researching new and expensive technologies.
Trends suggest that cancer spending growth will accelerate. One method for controlling costs is to examine whether the benefits of new technologies are worth the extra costs. However, especially new and emerging technologies are often more costly, while limited clinical evidence of superiority is available. In that situation it is often unclear whether to adopt the new technology now, with the risk of investing in a suboptimal therapy, or to wait for more evidence, with the risk of withholding patients their optimal treatment. This trade-off is especially difficult when it is costly to reverse the decision to adopt a technology, as is the case for proton therapy. Real options analysis, a technique originating from financial economics, assists in making this trade-off.
We examined whether to adopt proton therapy, as compared to stereotactic body radiotherapy, in the treatment of inoperable stage I non-small cell lung cancer. Three options are available: adopt without further research; adopt and undertake a trial; or delay adoption and undertake a trial. The decision depends on the expected net gain of each option, calculated by subtracting its total costs from its expected benefits.
In The Netherlands, adopt and trial was found to be the preferred option, with an optimal sample size of 200 patients. Increase of treatment costs abroad and costs of reversal altered the preferred option.
We have shown that real options analysis provides a transparent method of weighing the costs and benefits of adopting and/or further researching new and expensive technologies.
Lung pleonasms; Radiotherapy; Protons; Technology assessment; Decision making; Uncertainty
Health Technology Assessment (HTA) information, and in particular cost-effectiveness data is needed to guide decisions, preferably already in early stages of technological development. However, at that moment there is usually a high degree of uncertainty, because evidence is limited and different development paths are still possible. We developed a multi-parameter framework to assess dynamic aspects of a technology -still in development-, by means of scenario drafting to determine the effects, costs and cost-effectiveness of possible future diffusion patterns. Secondly, we explored the value of this method on the case of the clinical implementation of the 70-gene signature for breast cancer, a gene expression profile for selecting patients who will benefit most from chemotherapy.
To incorporate process-uncertainty, ten possible scenarios regarding the introduction of the 70-gene signature were drafted with European experts. Out of 5 most likely scenarios, 3 drivers of diffusion (non-compliance, technical failure, and uptake) were quantitatively integrated in a decision-analytical model. For these scenarios, the cost-effectiveness of the 70-gene signature expressed in Incremental Cost-Effectiveness Ratios (ICERs) was compared to clinical guidelines, calculated from the past (2005) until the future (2020).
In 2005 the ICER was €1,9 million/quality-adjusted-life-year (QALY), meaning that the 70-gene signature was not yet cost-effective compared to the current clinical guideline. The ICER for the 70-gene signature improved over time with a range of €1,9 million to €26,145 in 2010 and €1,9 million to €11,123/QALY in 2020 depending on the separate scenario used. From 2010, the 70-gene signature should be cost-effective, based on the combined scenario. The uptake-scenario had strongest influence on the cost-effectiveness.
When optimal diffusion of a technology is sought, incorporating process-uncertainty by means of scenario drafting into a decision model may reveal unanticipated developments and can demonstrate a range of possible cost-effectiveness outcomes. The effect of scenarios give additional information on the speed with cost effectiveness might be reached and thus provide a more realistic picture for policy makers, opinion leaders and manufacturers.
Early technology assessment; Scenario drafting; Genomic profiling; 70-gene signature; Breast cancer
New research criteria for the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) have recently been developed to enable an early diagnosis of AD pathophysiology by relying on emerging biomarkers. To enable efficient allocation of health care resources, evidence is needed to support decision makers on the adoption of emerging biomarkers in clinical practice. The research goals are to 1) assess the diagnostic test accuracy of current clinical diagnostic work-up and emerging biomarkers in MRI, PET and CSF, 2) perform a cost-consequence analysis and 3) assess long-term cost-effectiveness by an economic model.
In a cohort design 241 consecutive patients suspected of having a primary neurodegenerative disease are approached in four academic memory clinics and followed for two years. Clinical data and data on quality of life, costs and emerging biomarkers are gathered.
Diagnostic test accuracy is determined by relating the clinical practice and new research criteria diagnoses to a reference diagnosis. The clinical practice diagnosis at baseline is reflected by a consensus procedure among experts using clinical information only (no biomarkers). The diagnosis based on the new research criteria is reflected by decision rules that combine clinical and biomarker information. The reference diagnosis is determined by a consensus procedure among experts based on clinical information on the course of symptoms over a two-year time period.
A decision analytic model is built combining available evidence from different resources among which (accuracy) results from the study, literature and expert opinion to assess long-term cost-effectiveness of the emerging biomarkers.
Several other multi-centre trials study the relative value of new biomarkers for early evaluation of AD and related disorders. The uniqueness of this study is the assessment of resource utilization and quality of life to enable an economic evaluation. The study results are generalizable to a population of patients who are referred to a memory clinic due to their memory problems.
Subacromial disorders are considered to be one of the most common pathologies affecting the shoulder. Optimal therapy for shoulder pain (SP) in primary care is yet unknown, since clinical history and physical examination do not provide decisive evidence as to the patho-anatomical origin of the symptoms. Optimal decision strategies can be furthered by applying ultrasound imaging (US), an accurate method in diagnosing SP, demonstrating a clear relationship between diagnosis and available therapies. Yet, the clinical cost-effectiveness of applying US in the management of SP in primary care has not been studied. The aim of this paper is to describe the design and methods of a trial assessing the cost-effectiveness of ultrasound imaging as a diagnostic triage tool to improve management of primary care patients with non-chronic shoulder pain.
This randomised controlled trial (RCT) will involve 226 adult patients with suspected subacromial disorders recruited by general practitioners. During a Qualification period of two weeks, patients receive care as usual as advised by the Dutch College of General Practitioners, and patients are referred for US. Patients with insufficient improvement qualify for the RCT. These patients are then randomly assigned to the intervention or the control group. The therapies used in both groups are the same (corticosteroid injections, referral to a physiotherapist or orthopedic surgeon) except that therapies used in the intervention group will be tailored based on the US results. Ultrasound diagnosed disorders include tendinopathy, calcific tendinitis, partial and full thickness tears, and subacromial bursitis. The primary outcome is patient-perceived recovery at 52 weeks, using the Global Perceived Effect questionnaire. Secondary outcomes are disease specific and generic quality of life, cost-effectiveness, and the adherence to the initial applied treatment. Outcome measures will be assessed at baseline, 13, 26, 39 and 52 weeks after inclusion. An economic evaluation will be performed from both a health care and societal perspective with a time horizon of 52 weeks.
The results of this trial will give unique evidence regarding the cost-effectiveness of US as a diagnostic triage tool in the management of SP in primary care.
To illustrate the use of decision-analytic modeling to assist decision making in organizational innovations.
Study Setting/Data Sources
Regarding an organizational innovation (shared care in hearing aid provision) available evidence from different sources was synthesized.
A probabilistic Markov model was constructed.
We modeled the long-term cost-effectiveness of different organizational formats of shared care as opposed to the current organization. We assessed the expected value of perfect information (EVPI) for several groups of parameters in the model.
The current organization had the highest probability of being cost-effective. Additional research is worthwhile, especially on access to care and safety (sensitivity to detect pathology).
Decision-analytic modeling in an early stage of organizational innovation is a valuable tool to facilitate evidence-based decision making.
Decision-analytic modeling; cost-effectiveness analysis; uncertainty; organizational innovation; hearing aid provision; expected value of perfect information
This randomized clinical equivalence trial was designed to evaluate health-related quality of life (HRQoL) after fast-track treatment for low-risk coronary artery bypass (CABG) patients.
Four hundred and ten CABG patients were randomly assigned to undergo either short-stay intensive care treatment (SSIC, 8 h of intensive care stay) or control treatment (care as usual, overnight intensive care stay). HRQoL was measured at baseline and 1 month, and one year after surgery using the multidimensional index of life quality (MILQ), the EQ-5D, the Beck Depression Inventory and the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.
At one month after surgery, no statistically significant difference in overall HRQoL was found (MILQ-score P-value = .508, overall MILQ-index P-value = .543, EQ-5D VAS P-value = .593). The scores on the MILQ-domains, physical, and social functioning were significantly higher at one month postoperatively in the SSIC group compared to the control group (P-value = .049; 95%CI: 0.01–2.50 and P-value = .014, 95% CI: 0.24–2.06, respectively). However, these differences were no longer observed at long-term follow-up.
According to our definition of clinical equivalence, the HRQoL of SSIC patients is similar to patients receiving care as usual. Since safety and the financial benefits of this intervention were demonstrated in a previously reported analysis, SSIC can be considered as an adequate fast-track intensive care treatment option for low-risk CABG patients.
Quality of life; Intensive care; Coronary artery bypass grafting; Randomized controlled trial
Tinnitus is a common chronic health condition that affects 10% to 20% of the general population. Among severe sufferers it causes disability in various areas. As a result of the tinnitus, quality of life is often impaired. At present there is no cure or uniformly effective treatment, leading to fragmentized and costly tinnitus care. Evidence suggests that a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach in treating tinnitus is effective. The main objective of this study is to examine the effectiveness, costs, and cost-effectiveness of a comprehensive treatment provided by a specialized tinnitus center versus usual care. This paper describes the study protocol.
In a randomized controlled clinical trial 198 tinnitus patients will be randomly assigned to a specialized tinnitus care group or a usual care group. Adult tinnitus sufferers referred to the audiological centre are eligible. Included patients will be followed for 12 months. Primary outcome measure is generic quality of life (measured with the Health Utilities Index Mark III). Secondary outcomes are severity of tinnitus, general distress, tinnitus cognitions, tinnitus specific fear, and costs. Based on health state utility outcome data the number of patients to include is 198. Economic evaluation will be performed from a societal perspective.
This is, to our knowledge, the first randomized controlled trial that evaluates a comprehensive treatment of tinnitus and includes a full economic evaluation from a societal perspective. If this intervention proves to be effective and cost-effective, implementation of this intervention is considered and anticipated.
The trial has been registered at ClinicalTrial.gov. The trial registration number is NCT00733044
Urinary incontinence affects approximately 5% (800.000) of the Dutch population. Guidelines recommend pelvic floor muscle/bladder training for most patients. Unfortunately, general practitioners use this training only incidentally, but prescribe incontinence pads. Over 50% of patients get such pads, costing €160 million each year. Due to ageing of the population a further increase of expenses is expected. Several national reports recommend to involve nurse specialists to support general practitioners and improve patient care. The main objective of our study is to investigate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of involving nurse specialists in primary care for urinary incontinence. This paper describes the study protocol.
In a pragmatic prospective multi centre two-armed randomized controlled trial in the Netherlands the availability and involvement for the general practitioners of a nurse specialist will be compared with usual care. All consecutive patients consulting their general practitioner within 1 year for urinary incontinence and patients already diagnosed with urinary incontinence are eligible. Included patients will be followed for 12 months.
Primary outcome is severity of urinary incontinence (measured with the International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire Short Form (ICIQ-UI SF)). Based on ICIQ-UI SF outcome data the number of patients needed to include is 350. For the economic evaluation quality of life and costs will be measured alongside the clinical trial. For the longer term extrapolation of the economic evaluation a Markov modelling approach will be used.
This is, to our knowledge, the first trial on care for patients with urinary incontinence in primary care that includes a full economic evaluation and cost-effectiveness modelling exercise from the societal perspective. If this intervention proves to be effective and cost-effective, implementation of this intervention is considered and anticipated.
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN62722772
To generate insight into the differences between utility measures EuroQol 5D (EQ-5D), Health Utilities Index Mark II (HUI2) and Mark III (HUI3) and their impact on the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) for hearing aid fitting
Persons with hearing complaints completed EQ-5D, HUI2 and HUI3 at baseline and, when applicable, after hearing aid fitting. Practicality, construct validity, agreement, responsiveness and impact on the ICER were examined.
All measures had high completion rates. HUI3 was capable of discriminating between clinically distinctive groups. Utility scores (n = 315) for EQ-5D UK and Dutch tariff (0.83; 0.86), HUI2 (0.77) and HUI3 (0.61) were significantly different, agreement was low to moderate. Change after hearing aid fitting (n = 70) for HUI2 (0.07) and HUI3 (0.12) was statistically significant, unlike the EQ-5D UK (0.01) and Dutch (0.00) tariff. ICERs varied from €647,209/QALY for the EQ-5D Dutch tariff to €15,811/QALY for HUI3.
Utility scores, utility gain and ICERs heavily depend on the measure that is used to elicit them. This study indicates HUI3 as the instrument of first choice when measuring utility in a population with hearing complaints, but emphasizes the importance of a clear notion of what constitutes utility with regard to economic analyses.
Hearing loss; Costs and cost analysis; Quality-adjusted life years; Questionnaires; Outcome assessment (health care)
Asthma is a chronic lung disease in which recurrent asthma symptoms create a substantial burden to individuals and their families. At the same time the economic burden associated with asthma is considerable.
The cost-effectiveness study was part of a single centre prospective randomised controlled trial comparing a nurse-led telemonitoring programme to usual care in a population of asthmatic outpatients. The study included 109 asthmatic outpatients (56 children; 53 adults). The duration of follow-up was 12 months, and measurements were performed at baseline, 4, 8, and 12 months. Patients were asked to transfer their monitor data at least twice daily and by judging the received data and following a stepwise intervention protocol a nurse was able to act as the main caregiver in the intervention group. In both groups the EQ-5D and the SF-6D were used to obtain estimates of health state utilities. One year health care costs, patient and family costs, and productivity losses were calculated. The mean incremental costs were weighted against the mean incremental effect in terms of QALY.
The study population generally represented mild to moderate asthmatics. No significant differences were found between the groups with regard to the generic quality of life. Overall, the mean health care costs per patient were higher in the intervention group than in the control group. The intervention costs mainly caused the cost difference between the groups. The intervention costs the society € 31,035/QALY gained with regard to adults and with regard to children € 59,071/QALY gained.
If the outcome is measured by generic quality of life the nurse-led telemonitoring programme is of limited cost-effectiveness in the study population. From the societal perspective the probability of the programme being cost-effective compared to regular care was 85% at a ceiling ratio of € 80,000/QALY gained among the adults and 68% among the children. A decrease in the price of the asthma monitor will substantial increase the probability of the programme to be cost-effective.
Because of the increasing costs and anticipated shortage of Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialists in the care for hearing-impaired persons, an integrated care pathway that includes direct hearing aid provision was developed. While this direct pathway is still under investigation, in a survey we examined expectations and potential barriers and facilitators towards this direct pathway, of patients and professionals involved in the pathway.
Two study populations were assessed: members of the health professions involved in the care pathway for hearing-impaired persons (general practitioners (GPs), hearing aid dispensers, ENT-specialists and clinical audiologists) and persons with hearing complaints. We developed a comprehensive semi-structured questionnaire for the professionals, regarding expectations, barriers, facilitators and conditions for implementation. We developed two questionnaires for persons with hearing complaints, both regarding evaluations and preferences, and administered them after they had experienced two key elements of the direct pathway: the triage and the hearing aid fitting.
On average GPs and hearing aid dispensers had positive expectations towards the direct pathway, while ENT-specialists and clinical audiologists had negative expectations. Professionals stated both barriers and facilitators towards the direct pathway. Most professionals either supported implementation of the direct pathway, provided that a number of conditions were satisfied, or did not support implementation, unless roughly the same conditions were satisfied. Professionals generally agreed on which conditions need to be satisfied. Persons with hearing complaints evaluated the present referral pathway and the new direct pathway equally. Many, especially older, participants stated however that they would still visit the GP and ENT-specialist, even when this would not be necessary for reimbursement of the hearing aid, and found it important that the ENT-specialist or Audiological Centre evaluated their hearing aid.
This study identified professional concerns about the direct pathway for hearing-impaired persons. Gaps exist in expectations amongst professions. Also gaps exist between users of the pathway, especially between age groups and regions. Professionals are united in the conditions that need to be fulfilled for a successful implementation of the direct pathway. Implementation on a regional level is recommended to best satisfy these conditions.