Reference case methods for expert elicitation in healthcare decision making

Bojke, Laura and Soares, Marta O. and Claxton, Karl and Colson, Abigail and Fox, Aimée and Jackson, Chris and Jankovic, Dina and Morton, Alec and Sharples, Linda D. and Taylor, Andrea (2022) Reference case methods for expert elicitation in healthcare decision making. Medical Decision Making, 42 (2). pp. 182-193. ISSN 0272-989X (

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Background: The evidence used to inform health care decision making (HCDM) is typically uncertain. In these situations, the experience of experts is essential to help decision makers reach a decision. Structured expert elicitation (referred to as elicitation) is a quantitative process to capture experts’ beliefs. There is heterogeneity in the existing elicitation methodology used in HCDM, and it is not clear if existing guidelines are appropriate for use in this context. In this article, we seek to establish reference case methods for elicitation to inform HCDM. Methods: We collated the methods available for elicitation using reviews and critique. In addition, we conducted controlled experiments to test the accuracy of alternative methods. We determined the suitability of the methods choices for use in HCDM according to a predefined set of principles for elicitation in HCDM, which we have also generated. We determined reference case methods for elicitation in HCDM for health technology assessment (HTA). Results: In almost all methods choices available for elicitation, we found a lack of empirical evidence supporting recommendations. Despite this, it is possible to define reference case methods for HTA. The reference methods include a focus on gathering experts with substantive knowledge of the quantities being elicited as opposed to those trained in probability and statistics, eliciting quantities that the expert might observe directly, and individual elicitation of beliefs, rather than solely consensus methods. It is likely that there are additional considerations for decision makers in health care outside of HTA. Conclusions: The reference case developed here allows the use of different methods, depending on the decision-making setting. Further applied examples of elicitation methods would be useful. Experimental evidence comparing methods should be generated.