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Researcher Stories: How much is a healthy year of life worth to society?

2022-11-11 08:00:00

Each week from September, we will feature a distinguished Corvinus researcher who has recently received recognition for their work. On this occasion, we present Valentin Brodszky, who after obtaining his general practitioner's degree and a year of residency, started to focus on mathematics, statistics and economic theories. He now combines two his two passions: researching overall societal health gains, quality of life, cost-effectiveness in healthcare and costs associated with disease.

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What does one do at the start of one’s career with a fresh medical degree? The majority undoubtedly start as residents, later becoming specialists, and follow the path paved by the profession. Valentin Brodszky also embarked on this path, but after just one year as a resident, he realised that he felt out of place. In search of a path, he started studying economics at Corvinus University, not expecting at the time to eventually pursue a career in healthcare.

“Looking back, my career path appears to be a very fine linear path, but it was more of a stop on the way to find my path when I applied to Corvinus to study economics than a conscious choice. Which later came to fruition in more ways than one” – says Valentin regarding his beginnings.

In his fourth year, he minored in health economics alongside marketing, and it was clear from then on that he wanted to combine the two topics closest to him: health and economics.

Quantifying health

As head of the Health Policy Department, Valentin primarily performs applied research in the area of quality of life measurement and cost accounting with fellow colleagues. Their findings result in prestigious scientific publications which can also be useful in the analysis necessary to prepare financing decisions. The most important question is: how to allocate the available human and technological resources in the most efficient way to maximise health gains for society?

“Every doctor and every patient would like all the constantly evolving technological advances such as instruments, medicines and medical techniques to be available to all as quickly as possible. The financier, i. e. society, has limited options, and therefore decisions have to be made about the allocation of the available resources. Our analyses provide assistance in this,” – says Valentin, describing the work he and his department are involved in.

He refers to three important indicators that are regularly included in their analyses, since they are worth examining both separately and together. The first is the cost-effectiveness rate, i.e. the amount of investment needed to achieve health gains. The second number shows the proportion of society benefiting from the health gains provided by the new solution. The third indicator examines the value to society of a year of healthy life.

“A number of questions are linked to these, which are worth researching in themselves. For instance, it is clear that society is more willing to invest resources in the healthy years of children, as they are the future of society. However, it is also apparent that society is putting a lot of resources into innovative interventions that are less prevalent in society, yet still provide significant health gains for individuals. For example, interventions such as lung transplants or heart transplants.”

According to Valentin, the amount of money that society can save by reducing absenteeism by using a new health technology is considered as part of the decision making process, especially in Western European countries.

Obviously, if we look at things from this perspective, any health innovation that impacts on the working age group of society is going to deliver greater cost savings. Thus, if the overall recovery time for influenza can be reduced from five to three days, the workforce capacity of society increases significantly.

Targeting social health gains

Valentin received the Corvinus Research Excellence Award in 2022 in the Senior Faculty Non-Research Track category, and his scientific publications have been cited more than 3,000 times, demonstrating his recognition.

The conducting of research that can be applied to health policy or clinical decisions is important. An example of this is the newly revised Hungarian Health Economics Directive, regulating the methodological principles according to which analyses should be conducted for use in decision-making on financing. With three universities involved in the drafting of the new directive, it was an honour for him that, in addition to Semmelweis University and the University of Pécs, Corvinus also participated in the project. He is extremely proud to have one of their studies included in the guidelines. A recent departmental research project, headed by his colleague Fanni Rencz, developed usefulness scores reflecting the preferences of Hungarian society to the widely used international quality of life scale (EQ-5D). The objective of the indicator and the method is to allow decision-makers to compare therapeutic solutions for various diseases and to quantify health gains. Their findings were incorporated into national financing principles following the completion of the research.

This research was very complex. At the end of the process, we needed to translate the responses from a representative social sample into a number ranging from zero to one, where zero is death and one is perfect health. This indicator can show how serious a health condition is perceived to be in a given society,

– says Valentin, before adding that it is also fascinating to explore how these indicators change from country to country from a social perspective.

How much would we be prepared to pay for a Covid vaccine?

The Covid epidemic provided plenty of material for researchers in health sciences over the past two years, with several of their articles now under review at various journals: “From a quality of life perspective, for example, we found fear to be a significant factor associated with the epidemic. The results of our research showed that during the epidemic, those who had been vaccinated were often more afraid of the epidemic than people who had not been vaccinated”. Social position and vaccination also showed a relationship in the data:

It clearly shows that a higher level of education, place of residence and higher income all contributed to an increase in the willingness to get vaccinated.

Preferences for the various vaccines were also studied, showing that the vast majority of participants received their preferred vaccine. During the research, it also became clear that, despite the effectiveness of each vaccine type, different values were associated with them by society. So if vaccines were required to be purchased, surveyed people would be inclined to pay less for the Sinopharm and Sputnik vaccines, and more for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Author: László Tucsni, Corvinus Communication

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GEN.:2023.12.05. - 22:56:37