Cost-effectiveness analysis of a mobile ear screening and surveillance service versus an outreach screening, surveillance and surgical service for Indigenous children in Australia
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Indigenous Australians experience a high rate of ear disease and hearing loss, yet they have a lower rate of service access and utilisation compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. Screening, surveillance and timely access to specialist ear, nose and throat (ENT) services are key components in detecting and preventing the recurrence of ear diseases. To address the low access and utilisation rate by Indigenous Australians, a collaborative, community-based mobile telemedicine-enabled screening and surveillance (MTESS) service was trialled in Cherbourg, the third largest Indigenous community in Queensland, Australia. This paper aims to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the MTESS service using a lifetime Markov model that compares two options: (i) the Deadly Ears Program alone (current practice involving an outreach ENT surgical service and screening program), and (ii) the Deadly Ears Program supplemented with the MTESS service. Data were obtained from the Deadly Ears Program, a feasibility study of the MTESS service and the literature. Incremental cost-utility ratios were calculated from a societal perspective with both costs (in 2013–14 Australian dollars) and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) discounted at 5% annually. The model showed that compared with the Deadly Ears Program, the probability of an acceptable cost-utility ratio at a willingness-to-pay threshold of $50,000/QALY was 98% for the MTESS service. This cost effectiveness arises from preventing hearing loss in the Indigenous population and the subsequent reduction in associated costs. Deterministic and probability sensitivity analyses indicated that the model was robust to parameter changes. We concluded that the MTESS service is a cost-effective strategy. It presents an opportunity to resolve major issues confronting Australia’s health system such as the inequitable provision and access to quality healthcare for rural and remotes communities, and for Indigenous Australians. Additionally, it may encourage effective health service delivery at a time when the healthcare funding and workforce capacity are limited.
© 2015 Nguyen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health