For CAM to feature prominently in health care decision-making there is a need to expand the evidence-base and to further incorporate economic evaluation into research priorities.
In a world of scarce health care resources and an emphasis on efficiency and clinical efficacy, CAM, as indeed do all other treatments, requires rigorous evaluation to be considered in budget decision-making.
Economic evaluation provides the tools to measure the costs and health consequences of CAM interventions and thereby inform decision making. This article offers CAM researchers an introductory framework for understanding, undertaking and disseminating economic evaluation. The types of economic evaluation available for the study of CAM are discussed, and decision modelling is introduced as a method for economic evaluation with much potential for use in CAM. Two types of decision models are introduced, decision trees and Markov models, along with a worked example of how each method is used to examine costs and health consequences. This is followed by a discussion of how this information is used by decision makers.
Undoubtedly, economic evaluation methods form an important part of health care decision making. Without formal training it can seem a daunting task to consider economic evaluation, however, multidisciplinary teams provide an opportunity for health economists, CAM practitioners and other interested researchers, to work together to further develop the economic evaluation of CAM.