Background: The importance of cost-effectiveness of nursing practices and its influence on prioritizations has been discussed in literature. It is, however, unclear to what extent health economic analysis has been used in the area of nursing.
Aim: The aim of this paper was to investigate how studies of nursing practices apply economic evaluations.
Methods: A literature review was conducted that included studies through August 2007. The search was performed using Medline, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Econlit, DARE, HTA, NHS EED, Cochrane reviews and clinical trials with a search term connected to nursing and health economics. Protocols were used in the screening procedure and the result is reported in a descriptive form.
Results: The search identified 115 studies published between1984 and August 2007. Studies were found in the following nursing practices: provision of support and treatment (n = 17); assessing suffering/well-being (n = 1); preventing or treating ill health (n = 53); and organization of individual care (n = 44). In 22% of all studies, the authors explicitly presented the health economic method used. In 25% of all studies, the perspective of the economic analysis was explicitly stated and a large variability in cost was considered in the analysis. In 82 studies, the authors reported cost-effective intervention.
Conclusions: Although economic evaluation of nursing practice has increased, it is still a rather small area. According to the items elucidated in this study, further methodological improvement is needed to evaluate the economics of nursing.