Health Economics & Simulation Modelling (HESM) Methods Cluster

What is Health Economics and Simulation Modelling (HESM)? 

Health economics is a field of study concerned with the connections between health and the resources (e.g., time, people, money and equipment) needed to promote health. In reality, such resources are limited, meaning that choices need to be made. By applying economic theories of demand, supply and social choice, health economics aims to understand the behaviour of decision makers, including individuals, households, health care providers, organizations and governments.

All models are representations or simplified versions of a concept. In health care, simulation modelling can be thought of as the process of describing and analyzing a representation of a physical phenomenon to predict its performance in the real world. It offers a valuable, flexible tool for synthesising and leveraging existing information to examine the potential impacts of alternative decisions.

Mandate for the HESM Methods Cluster

The HESM Methods Cluster will advance the evidence-base of the scientific methods used within the context of patient-oriented HESM research by fostering a community of methodologists to engage in discussions and collaboratively undertake projects. A second priority area focuses on the creation of HESM training and education materials for all stakeholders. Through a dedicated focus on patient-oriented research principles, the activities of the cluster will complement and strengthen the work of the health economics and simulation modelling community in British Columbia.


Method Cluster Planning Event, September, 2017


Themes for Projects

Read about the HESM Themes here.

Summaries of Cluster Projects

1. Using Health Economic Methods to Design Clinical Studies

It has been estimated that up to 85% of the money spent on medical research might be wasted. One possible reason for this waste is that most research tries to figure out if a treatment works before checking with patients whether they would be willing to try that treatment. In this project we will use methods used in marketing research (e.g. used by companies who want to see if people will buy their phones, cameras etc.) to find out whether patients would value a treatment before money is spent on figuring out whether that treatment will work. We will use the example of a new treatment, stem-cell therapy (using cells that can change into other types of cells) for people with a severe joint and skin condition (scleroderma), to test our methods. The results from this study can help research dollars to be spent on studying treatments that matter to patients.

2. Value-Based Decisions in Health Economics and Simulation Modelling Studies

Many decisions are needed during the process of scientific research. Some of these decisions require expertise in science, but others do not. For example, when researchers study whether a drug works they may decide to test it in different age-groups, genders or races. This choice does not require expertise in science, but rather an understanding of what is thought to be important to study. Decisions like these can be understood as value judgments. Value judgments occur in many parts of the research process: in choosing a topic and how to study it, in choosing the goals for the project, and in choosing how to share the results. Members of the public can help inform such value judgments by telling researchers what is important to them. This is especially important when studying health together with the costs of health care – known as health economics. This project will study how health economists manage value judgments in their work, particularly when using computers to forecast health and health care costs. The results will help researchers plan future projects on how to better include patients’ value judgments in health economics.

3. Examining the Utility of Educational Videos for Increasing Knowledge and Enhancing the Experiences of Patient Partners in Health Economics Research

Patients, caregivers, and the public have a right to help decide how our health dollars are spent. In 2018, the public sector will pay for almost 70% of health services in Canada (about $175 billion). Deciding what the public purse should pay for can be complicated, because the resources we have — from the land and from our tax dollars — aren’t enough to cover the health services that the public wants. Funding some health services means sacrificing others, so Canadians should know what is most important to them when it comes to health care. In this project, a team of researchers, patients, and filmmakers will start a conversation about these issues through a series of short educational videos. These videos will explore different ideas about health and health care costs and ask audiences to take part in imagining how Canada's health system can be the best it can be.

For more details about these projects, please view the webinar held in June 2018




Dr. Nick Bansback

Dr. Bansback is seconded to the Unit from the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia (UBC), where he is an Assistant Professor. Among many affiliations, he is the Program Head of Decision Sciences at the Centre for Health Evaluation & Outcomes Sciences (CHÉOS), one of the core partner organizations of the BC SUPPORT Unit. Dr. Bansback holds a PhD in health economics from the University of Sheffield (UK), and completed his postdoctoral training at UBC. Currently a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) New Investigator, Dr. Bansback’s research is focused on using decision science to maximize the value patients and the public gain from health care.

For more information about Nick Bansback, please click here.

Dr. David Whitehurst

Dr. Whitehurst is seconded to the Unit from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University (SFU). He is an economist who has specialized in the areas of health and health care throughout his career. Prior to his appointment as Assistant Professor at SFU, he held research positions at UBC, and at the Universities of Birmingham and Keele in the UK. Dr. Whitehurst is also an Associate Scientist at the Centre for Clinical Epidemiology & Evaluation (C2E2), a core partner organization to the BC SUPPORT Unit. His current research is focused on the assessment of quality of life in the context of economic evaluation, and he works across a broad range of clinical areas, including spinal cord injury and care for seniors.

For more information about David Whitehurst, please click here.