- Apr 1, 2019
Access to health care is one of the most pressing issues in Canada today. That’s why Assistant Professor Lauren Cipriano is helping policy-makers to deliver evidence-based solutions.
Cipriano, HBA ’05, is being honoured for her impact in that area as the 2019 recipient of the Dr. Maurice McGregor Award from Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH). The award recognizes rising stars in the field of health technology assessment. She’ll receive the award on April 15 at the 2019 CADTH Symposium in Edmonton. The theme for the 2019 Symposium – Supporting Health System Transformation – recognizes how the Canadian health system is constantly being transformed through new trends, new research initiatives, and a whirlwind of changes on many fronts.
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In this era of transformation, Cipriano’s work is helping with new approaches, new processes, and new priorities that ultimately result in better health, better patient experience, and better value for the health-care system.
Cipriano said she looks forward to both the symposium and the opportunity to visit Edmonton. She lived there as a child.
“It’s a great meeting every year to learn about the frontiers of health-care policy in Canada. And now this year it will be extra special,” she said.
CADTH is a not-for-profit organization that provides Canada’s health-care decision-makers with objective evidence to help them make informed decisions about the optimal use of drugs and medical devices. Cipriano has collaborated on an economic evaluation for CADTH to inform Canadian atrial fibrillation monitoring guidelines.
“CADTH is a really important agency in evidence-based health policy and it has been a privilege to work with them,” she said. “Clinical trials focus on evaluating efficacy, and often on short-term outcomes. To understand the value of a new intervention or technology, we must consider the long-term costs and benefits in comparison to currently available technologies.”
The business of health care
Her education in biochemistry, business, and Management Science led to her interest in health economics. Her research contributes to analysis of evidence-based policy for efficient and sustainable use of limited health-care resources. It has helped to advance national and international guidelines and policy.
Value for money
Some of her work has focused on the long-term costs and benefits of Hepatitis C treatment. While expensive, early drug treatment can prevent patients from developing cancer or needing liver transplants. The drugs are so expensive that treating everyone who would benefit immediately would overwhelm health-care budgets in many places.
“Part of my research looks at how to prioritize patients when some people will wait for care. Should limited resources be directed to patients in the worst health or towards individuals who may be at an earlier stage of the disease but who are more likely to transmit the virus to others? Mathematical models can evaluate different policy proposals, illuminating the expected costs and benefits and some of the unintended consequences.”
In addition to her own work contributing to answering these questions, Cipriano performed a review of the literature for the World Health Organization’s hepatitis C virus Guideline Development Group prior to the release of its most recent hepatitis C care and treatment guidelines.
She also recently spoke with CBC News on the benefits of Canada investing in low-cost birth control as preventative health care.
“Birth control is a low-cost health intervention, but it’s cost-saving and economically mobilizing. It’s very high-value health care for families and people must often pay out of pocket for it,” she said.
The future of health care
Her future research will explore:
- Where to invest money for health-care research;
- Inefficiencies in a fragmented health system; and,
- Optimal use of antibiotics.
And as the aging population increases demands on health-care systems, health economics is more relevant than ever. Cipriano said it leads to more transparent decision-making, draws on different perspectives, and considers a complete trajectory of patient care. When budgets are limited, each investment consumes resources that cannot be spent elsewhere.
“The patients affected by these opportunity costs are not always identifiable,” says Cipriano, “Health economics provides a transparent framework for evaluating and communicating these trade-offs, differentiating higher and lower-value health care investments for decision-makers.”
We care in the health-care system about the whole cascade of consequences that is going to happen and the interaction with other resources.