Objectives: The diffusion of cost-utility analyses (CUAs) through the medical literature was examined, documenting visible patterns and determining how they correspond with expectations about the diffusion of process innovations.
Methods: This study used 539 CUAs from a registry. It includes data elements comprising year of publication, the research center in which the study was performed, the clinical area covered by the CUA, and the specific journal. Finally, each paper was assigned to a journal type that could be one of the three categories: health services research, general medicine, or clinical specialty.
Results: When the average number of publications is plotted against time, the plot reveals an S-shaped curve. It appears that, whereas CUAs initially were published more frequently in general medical or health services research journals, there was a clear increase in the diffusion of CUA into subspecialty journals over time. The concentration ratio for research centers as measured by the Herfindhal–Hirschman Index decreased over time.
Conclusions: The spread of CUA through the medical literature follows patterns identified for the diffusion of other new technologies and processes. Future research should focus on what impact this spread has had on the practice of medicine and formulation of health policy.