McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Bridging the gap between economic evaluation and healthcare decision-making

Published: June 15, 2006
Bernard J. O'Brien
Bernard J. O'Brien, BA, MSc, PhD (June 6, 1959 - February 13, 2004)

Some of the world’s leading researchers who specialize in assessing the costs and benefits of health interventions ranging from pacemakers to diagnostic imaging to new drug therapies will gather at McMaster University next week for a two-day conference.

The Better Analysis for Better Decisions conference on Monday and Tuesday (June 19 and 20) will draw more than 200 international researchers to hear speakers from various countries describe a wide range of research that aims to help governments decide the most efficient and effective ways to spend health care dollars.

The conference presentations will include the latest developments in Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S., and how this research is informing the decisions about publicly-funded health care.

The event has drawn an "international all-star team of researchers" who will be presenting new, original material, said Greg Stoddart, a McMaster University professor and co-chair of the conference.

"It would be difficult to find this collection of speakers anywhere else," said Stoddart. "These are the best people in their fields in the world."

The conference’s subtitle, Bridging the Gap Between Economic Evaluation & Healthcare Decision-Making, captures the range of topics to be covered during the event.

Included in the conference is a presentation on the Ontario Ministry of Health’s new evidenced-based, decision-making process for the funding of all non-drug health interventions, including surgeries, devices and services.

The conference is being organized by the Program for Assessment of Technology in Health (PATH), a joint venture of McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare, the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York in the United Kingdom, and McMaster’s Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

PATH conducts research on the costs and outcomes of health interventions to help the government determine spending priorities in a way that provides good value for the money spent. Acting director Ron Goeree, who is among the conference speakers, said the provincial government’s new process for deciding which health care expenditures to cover and the work of PATH aim to make better use of public health care resources.

As an example, a recent research study into the effectiveness of different types of stents, a medical device used to keep coronary arteries open, resulted in a change in funding of stents that will save the government more than $20 million a year, said Goeree. That money will not be cut from health care, but re-invested into other needed services.

The economic evaluation of Canada’s drug review system will also be discussed at the conference, and speakers from the U.S. and the U.K. will describe various health evaluation initiatives in those countries.

The conference was organized to honour Bernie O’Brien, an internationally-renowned health economist who was the founder and director of PATH prior to his sudden death in 2004, at the age of 44. O’Brien was also a professor in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

All speakers have donated their time to the conference. Funds raised will be divided between the Bernie O’Brien Fellowship Trust at McMaster and a trust fund for his two children.

The proceedings of the conference will also be published in the scientific journal Pharmacoeconomics as a lasting dedication to O’Brien.

O’Brien joined the CE&B department at McMaster in 1990. He also served as associate director of the Centre for Evaluation of Medicines at St. Joseph’s Healthcare. He earned many national and international awards for his work, and held a Senior Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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