Background: Patient involvement is widely acknowledged to be a valuable component in health technology assessment (HTA) and healthcare decision making. However, quantitative approaches to ascertain patients' preferences for treatment endpoints are not yet established. The objective of this study is to introduce the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) as a preference elicitation method in HTA. Based on a systematic literature review on the use of AHP in health care in 2009, the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG) initiated an AHP study related to its HTA work in 2010.
Methods: The AHP study included two AHP workshops, one with twelve patients and one with seven healthcare professionals. In these workshops, both patients and professionals rated their preferences with respect to the importance of different endpoints of antidepressant treatment by a pairwise comparison of individual endpoints. These comparisons were performed and evaluated by the AHP method and relative weights were generated for each endpoint.
Results: The AHP study indicates that AHP is a well-structured technique whose cognitive demands were well handled by patients and professionals. The two groups rated some of the included endpoints of antidepressant treatment differently. For both groups, however, the same six of the eleven endpoints analyzed accounted for more than 80 percent of the total weight.
Conclusions: AHP can be used in HTA to give a quantitative dimension to patients' preferences for treatment endpoints. Preference elicitation could provide important information at various stages of HTA and challenge opinions on the importance of endpoints.