Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 May 2001
Until the mid-1980s, most economic analyses of healthcare technologies were based on decision theory and used decision-analytic models. The goal was to synthesize all relevant clinical and economic evidence for the purpose of assisting decision makers to efficiently allocate society's scarce resources. This was true of virtually all the early cost-effectiveness evaluations sponsored and/or published by the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) (15), Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute, other elements of the U.S. Public Health Service, and of healthcare technology assessors in Europe and elsewhere around the world. Methodologists routinely espoused, or at minimum assumed, that these economic analyses were based on decision theory (8;24;25). Since decision theory is rooted in—in fact, an informal application of—Bayesian statistical theory, these analysts were conducting studies to assist healthcare decision making by appealing to a Bayesian rather than a classical, or frequentist, inference approach. But their efforts were not so labeled. Oddly, the statistical training of these decision analysts was invariably classical, not Bayesian. Many were not—and still are not—conversant with Bayesian statistical approaches.