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Open Access Research article

An economic evaluation of adaptive e-learning devices to promote weight loss via dietary change for people with obesity

Alec Miners1*, Jody Harris2, Lambert Felix2, Elizabeth Murray3, Susan Michie4 and Phil Edwards2

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

2 Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK

3 Research Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London, Upper Floor 3, Royal Free Hospital, Rowland Hill Street, London, NW3 2PF, UK

4 Research Department of Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 7HB, UK

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:190  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-190

Published: 7 July 2012

Abstract

Background

The prevalence of obesity is over 25% in many developed countries. Obesity is strongly associated with an increased risk of fatal and chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Therefore it has become a major public health concern for many economies. E-learning devices are a relatively novel approach to promoting dietary change. The new generation of devices are ‘adaptive’ and use interactive electronic media to facilitate teaching and learning. E-Learning has grown out of recent developments in information and communication technology, such as the Internet, interactive computer programmes, interactive television and mobile phones. The aim of this study is to assess the cost-effectiveness of e-learning devices as a method of promoting weight loss via dietary change.

Methods

An economic evaluation was performed using decision modelling techniques. Outcomes were expressed in terms of Quality-Adjusted Life-Years (QALYs) and costs were estimated from a health services perspective. All parameter estimates were derived from the literature. A systematic review was undertaken to derive the estimate of relative treatment effect.

Results

The base case results from the e-Learning Economic Evaluation Model (e-LEEM) suggested that the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was approximately £102,000 per Quality-Adjusted Life-Year (QALY) compared to conventional care. This finding was robust to most alternative assumptions, except a much lower fixed cost of providing e-learning devices. Expected value of perfect information (EVPI) analysis showed that while the individual level EVPI was arguably negligible, the population level value was between £37 M and £170 M at a willingness to pay between £20,000 to £30,000 per additional QALY.

Conclusion

The current economic evidence base suggests that e-learning devices for managing the weight of obese individuals are unlikely to be cost-effective unless their fixed costs are much lower than estimated or future devices prove to be much more effective.

Keywords:
Economic evaluation; e-learning; cost-utility analysis; obesity and weight management.