Concerns about pathology testing such as the value provided by new tests and the potential for inappropriate utilization have led to a greater need to assess costs and benefits. Economic evaluations are a formal method of analyzing costs and benefits, yet for pathology tests, questions remain about the scope and quality of the economic evidence.
To describe the extent and quality of published evidence provided by economic evaluations of pathology tests from 2010 to 2015.
Economic evaluations relating to pathology tests from 2010 to 2015 were reviewed. Eight databases were searched for published studies, and details recorded for the country, clinical focus, type of testing, and consideration of sensitivity, specificity, and false test results. The reporting quality of studies was assessed using the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards checklist and cost-effectiveness ratios were analyzed for publication bias.
We found 356 economic evaluations of pathology tests, most of which regarded developed countries. The most common economic evaluations were cost-utility analyses and the most common clinical focus was infectious diseases. More than half of the studies considered sensitivity and specificity, but few studies considered the impact of false test results. The average Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards checklist score was 17 out of 24. Cost-utility ratios were commonly less than $10,000/quality-adjusted life-year or more than $200,000/quality-adjusted life-year.
The number of economic evaluations of pathology tests has increased in recent years, but the rate of increase has plateaued. Furthermore, the quality of studies in the past 5 years was highly variable, and there is some question of publication bias in reporting cost-effectiveness ratios.
Rory D. Watts Ian W. Li Elizabeth A. Geelhoed Frank M. Sanfilippo Andrew St. John