Health economics research promotes a deeper understanding of how stakeholders (patients, providers, health care systems, payers, regulators) use and value new and innovative technologies and interventions aimed at improving health. The value of any NIH-funded biomedical research finding will ultimately depend on the actions of these participants in the health care system because they determine what interventions are actually delivered and how well they are utilized. Health economics research can provide insights into what services and products are most needed, why new ones do or do not get developed, adapted, or adopted, why patients do or do not use or adhere to their use, and identify factors that might make the services and products more valuable. Stressing causal analysis and the need to consider the effects on decisions of goals, preferences, constraints, and responses to market conditions, health economists are well equipped to conceptualize and conduct rigorous, innovative research to answer these critical questions.
Economics approaches are instrumental in understanding significant barriers that can prevent exciting scientific discoveries from improving health and saving lives. For example, studies of the effects of various incentives and pressures in the marketplace on consumer and provider behavior can elucidate strategies that promote the optimal adoption and use of high-value innovations. Understanding the implications of health care system structure and organization, as well as practice design, for adoption and use can identify both opportunities for further innovation and barriers that could be overcome by thoughtful design of interventions stemming from fundamental advances in medical science. Careful modeling of the likely adoption and real-world effects of treatment, diagnostic and preventive strategies can inform efforts to maximize their impact on health and well-being. Equally important as the research findings from this program will be the research capacity and tools that are being developed. These resources can be leveraged by individual NIH Institutes and Centers to conduct related, but more narrowly focused, research on these questions, and importantly can optimize the adoption of future biomedical technologies and interventions.
Because the intent is the development of generalizable understanding, several grants were funded as cooperative agreements. This mechanism supports the synthesis of funded research efforts and thereby can improve the process leading from scientific advances to health improvement. Cooperative agreements allow substantial involvement of NIH staff to assist, guide, coordinate, and participate in project activities. NIH staff working on the Health Economics program provide a framework through Steering Committees that can facilitate communication and build synergy among investigators working in this area, with the aim of establishing a solid foundation for development of the health economics field.