Issues: Uterine cervical cytology smears are among the most cost- effective cancer prevention interventions available, but they are not infallible, and new or modified technologies have been and will be proposed to improve diagnostic accuracy. Before these new technologies are accepted, their performance attributes will be carefully studied and defined. Equally important in this era of fiscal constraints are cost/benefit analyses, for which we review certain guidelines. Consensus Position: In an effort to control rising costs in the health care sector, there has been a strong incentive to move toward a market system, and a variety of forces are acting to drive down expenditures. These same pressures will continue to be brought to bear on the providers of cervical cytology services. It must be emphasized that the technical knowledge required to define cost-effective medical practice lies within the medical profession itself, which must recognize the following: (a) Resources are finite; (b) Elimination of fraud, abuse and waste is not enough to bring health care expenditures down to levels considered acceptable to government and business; (c) The medical profession must take the responsibility to identify the health and economic consequences of the services it provides and make wise recommendations for allocation of resources to optimize health consequences. The analysis of costs and benefits must be viewed from a societal perspective and presented in terms of the marginal impact on current practice. This does not mean that new technologies must reduce cost; on the contrary, improvements in health can be expected to come at a price, but at a price commensurate with value gained in lives saved or in added quality adjusted life years. To be of value, a new technology for cervical cytology must be more effective in preventing cervical carcinoma. Dysplasia is considered a precursor of carcinoma, and detection of dysplasia has been a surrogate for prevention of cervical carcinoma, but dysplasia does not always lead to carcinoma, least of all mild dysplasia, and policy makers ultimately will insist that a favorable change in health outcome be effected by new technology before it is allocated resources. Alternatively, new technologies may lower cost, perhaps by modifying screening or rescreening procedures according to known risk; by improved cytopreparatory techniques that simplify, improve or speed screening; or by monitoring divices that minimize screening error. In each case the performance attributes of the instrument or human instrument process should be evaluated in the intended use environment. Ongoing Issues: While current cervical cytology methodology is one of the most effective means of cancer prevention, these continues to be development of new techniques to increase the sensitivity and specificity of this test. With present fiscal constraints, these will be subject to stringent cost/benefit analyses in which the medical profession must play a key role. Such analyses can be quite complicated, considering the additional costs or cost savings of clinical follow-up procedures and the reliability of dysplasias detected by cytology as a surrogate for cervical carcinoma in calculating quality of life years saved.
- Cost-benefit analysis
- Mass screening
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine