The Economics of Health Care: Improving health care costs and outcomes for patients
18 May 2023
Melanie Golob, currently studying for a DPhil in Evidence-Based Health Care, reflects on her experience of our module on the Economics of Health Care.
Why I took the class
Who decides what treatments and services get covered in health care systems? The answer may be obvious: the health care systems, of course. The trickier question to answer is how do those decisions get made? And why? Though I work for a U.S. organization that provides health care for more than 2 million of the state’s residents, I am always curious how other states and countries are providing health care. Considering how many people globally are dissatisfied with the care they are receiving, is anyone doing it well? While thinking through the arc of my thesis for the DPhil in Evidence-Based Health Care at Oxford, I knew I wanted to tie in the knowledge and resources I have gained from working in government-funded health care to my research in living evidence synthesis. Specifically, researching policy changes, and if they improve health care costs and outcomes for patients. My supervisors, David Nunan and Jonathan Livingstone-Banks, prudently advised me to get more training in this area before embarking on a study, suggesting the new course Oxford was offering on the economics of health care. As luck would have it, the course would prove useful not only for my planned study, but for my day job as well.
Although it was my first course at Oxford, it was definitely the best. The topics discussed at the beginning, such as priority setting in health care, resonated with things I had been thinking about related to my work. The examples used in the class were unique and thought-provoking, with additional sources provided for those who wanted to learn more. There was a documentary referenced in the course I tracked down and watched, found it incredibly useful, and subsequently shared with all my colleagues. The class added variety by providing lectures across a wide range of faculty with expertise in economics and health care. The hands-on learning seemed intense at first, as I had not been in a classroom setting for quite some time, but it also ended up being the most memorable, changing up the pace between lectures. I especially appreciated the scope of the course, as there were some discussions that examined big picture concepts in health care, and others that provided focused learning with a deep dive into specific subjects. It also speaks highly of the course coordinators, Padraig Dixon and Catia Nicodemo, for having put so much thought and planning into the diverse backgrounds and specialties that would be represented among course participants, crafting the module accordingly.
What I’ll do with it
A few weeks after the course ended, I typed up my handwritten notes from the class (yes, some people still do that) and was amazed at how much material was covered in such a short time frame. I used what I learned from the class to start the first draft of my study protocol on looking at costs and health outcomes related to policy change. I am by no means an expert now, but was able to incorporate some of what I learned on the course into my project. At work, I’m trying not to overwhelm colleagues by sharing takeaways learned from the module, as there are parts of it that will be useful to incorporate with our organization’s processes. I have a newfound appreciation for the economics of health care, even if it made me realize that (spoiler alert) no health care system is doing it perfectly. But there are some systems doing it better than others, and we can and should take note of what works and what doesn’t. From a U.S. health care perspective, we have a lot to learn.