Representing uncertainty: the role of cost-effectiveness acceptability curves



Decision-making in health care is inevitably undertaken in a context of uncertainty concerning the effectiveness and costs of health care interventions and programmes. One method that has been suggested to represent this uncertainty is the cost-effectiveness acceptability curve. This technique, which directly addresses the decision-making problem, has advantages over confidence interval estimation for incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. However, despite these advantages, cost-effectiveness acceptability curves have yet to be widely adopted within the field of economic evaluation of health care technologies. In this paper we consider the relationship between cost-effectiveness acceptability curves and decision-making in health care, suggest the introduction of a new concept more relevant to decision-making, that of the cost-effectiveness frontier, and clarify the use of these techniques when considering decisions involving multiple interventions. We hope that as a result we can encourage the greater use of these techniques. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.