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The role of economic evaluation in the decision-making process of family physicians: design and methods of a qualitative embedded multiple-case study

Chantale Lessard1*, André-Pierre Contandriopoulos1 and Marie-Dominique Beaulieu2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Administration, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

2 Department of Family Medicine, Doctor Sadok Besrour Chair in Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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BMC Family Practice 2009, 10:15  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-15

Published: 11 February 2009



A considerable amount of resource allocation decisions take place daily at the point of the clinical encounter; especially in primary care, where 80 percent of health problems are managed. Ignoring economic evaluation evidence in individual clinical decision-making may have a broad impact on the efficiency of health services. To date, almost all studies on the use of economic evaluation in decision-making used a quantitative approach, and few investigated decision-making at the clinical level. An important question is whether economic evaluations affect clinical practice. The project is an intervention research study designed to understand the role of economic evaluation in the decision-making process of family physicians (FPs). The contributions of the project will be from the perspective of Pierre Bourdieu's sociological theory.


A qualitative research strategy is proposed. We will conduct an embedded multiple-case study design. Ten case studies will be performed. The FPs will be the unit of analysis. The sampling strategies will be directed towards theoretical generalization. The 10 selected cases will be intended to reflect a diversity of FPs. There will be two embedded units of analysis: FPs (micro-level of analysis) and field of family medicine (macro-level of analysis). The division of the determinants of practice/behaviour into two groups, corresponding to the macro-structural level and the micro-individual level, is the basis for Bourdieu's mode of analysis. The sources of data collection for the micro-level analysis will be 10 life history interviews with FPs, documents and observational evidence. The sources of data collection for the macro-level analysis will be documents and 9 open-ended, focused interviews with key informants from medical associations and academic institutions. The analytic induction approach to data analysis will be used. A list of codes will be generated based on both the original framework and new themes introduced by the participants. We will conduct within-case and cross-case analyses of the data.


The question of the role of economic evaluation in FPs' decision-making is of great interest to scientists, health care practitioners, managers and policy-makers, as well as to consultants, industry, and society. It is believed that the proposed research approach will make an original contribution to the development of knowledge, both empirical and theoretical.