Embedding an economist in regional and rural health services to add value and reduce waste by improving local-level decision-making: protocol for the ‘embedded Economist’ program and evaluation

Andrew Searles, Donella Piper, Christine Jorm, Penny Reeves, Maree Gleeson, Jonathan Karnon, Nicholas Goodwin, Kenny Lawson, Rick Iedema, Jane Gray

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Background: Systematic approaches to the inclusion of economic evaluation in national healthcare decision-making are usual. It is less common for economic evaluation to be routinely undertaken at the ‘local-level’ (e.g. in a health service or hospital) despite the largest proportion of health care expenditure being determined at this service level and recognition by local health service decision makers of the need for capacity building in economic evaluation skills. This paper describes a novel program – the embedded Economist (eE) Program. The eE Program aims to increase local health service staff awareness of, and develop their capacity to access and apply, economic evaluation principles in decision making. The eE program evaluation is also described. The aim of the evaluation is to capture the contextual, procedural and relational aspects that assist and detract from the eE program aims; as well as the outcomes and impact from the specific eE projects. Methods: The eE Program consists of a embedding a health economist in six health services and the provision of supported education in applied economic evaluation, provided via a community of practice and a university course. The embedded approach is grounded in co-production, embedded researchers and ‘slow science’. The sites, participants, and program design are described. The program evaluation includes qualitative data collection via surveys, semi-structured interviews, observations and field diaries. In order to share interim findings, data are collected and analysed prior, during and after implementation of the eE program, at each of the six health service sites. The surveys will be analysed by calculating frequencies and descriptive statistics. A thematic analysis will be conducted on interview, observation and filed diary data. The Framework to Assess the Impact from Translational health research (FAIT) is utilised to assess the overall impact of the eE Program. Discussion: This program and evaluation will contribute to knowledge about how best to build capacity and skills in economic evaluation amongst decision-makers working in local-level health services. It will examine the extent to which participants are able to improve their ability to utilise evidence to inform decisions, avoid waste and improve the value of care delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number201
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2021


  • Economic evaluation
  • Embedded researcher
  • Health economics
  • Health services research
  • Measuring impact
  • Program evaluation
  • Value-based healthcare


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