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Open Access Research article

Using resource modelling to inform decision making and service planning: the case of colorectal cancer screening in Ireland

Linda Sharp1*, Lesley Tilson2, Sophie Whyte3, Alan O Ceilleachair1, Cathal Walsh24, Cara Usher2, Paul Tappenden3, James Chilcott3, Anthony Staines5, Michael Barry2 and Harry Comber1

Author Affiliations

1 National Cancer Registry Ireland, Cork Airport Business Park, Kinsale Road, Cork, Ireland

2 National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics, St James’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland

3 School for Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

4 Department of Statistics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

5 School of Nursing, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland

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BMC Health Services Research 2013, 13:105  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-105

Published: 19 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Organised colorectal cancer screening is likely to be cost-effective, but cost-effectiveness results alone may not help policy makers to make decisions about programme feasibility or service providers to plan programme delivery. For these purposes, estimates of the impact on the health services of actually introducing screening in the target population would be helpful. However, these types of analyses are rarely reported. As an illustration of such an approach, we estimated annual health service resource requirements and health outcomes over the first decade of a population-based colorectal cancer screening programme in Ireland.

Methods

A Markov state-transition model of colorectal neoplasia natural history was used. Three core screening scenarios were considered: (a) flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) once at age 60, (b) biennial guaiac-based faecal occult blood tests (gFOBT) at 55–74 years, and (c) biennial faecal immunochemical tests (FIT) at 55–74 years. Three alternative FIT roll-out scenarios were also investigated relating to age-restricted screening (55–64 years) and staggered age-based roll-out across the 55–74 age group. Parameter estimates were derived from literature review, existing screening programmes, and expert opinion. Results were expressed in relation to the 2008 population (4.4 million people, of whom 700,800 were aged 55–74).

Results

FIT-based screening would deliver the greatest health benefits, averting 164 colorectal cancer cases and 272 deaths in year 10 of the programme. Capacity would be required for 11,095-14,820 diagnostic and surveillance colonoscopies annually, compared to 381–1,053 with FSIG-based, and 967–1,300 with gFOBT-based, screening. With FIT, in year 10, these colonoscopies would result in 62 hospital admissions for abdominal bleeding, 27 bowel perforations and one death. Resource requirements for pathology, diagnostic radiology, radiotherapy and colorectal resection were highest for FIT. Estimates depended on screening uptake. Alternative FIT roll-out scenarios had lower resource requirements.

Conclusions

While FIT-based screening would quite quickly generate attractive health outcomes, it has heavy resource requirements. These could impact on the feasibility of a programme based on this screening modality. Staggered age-based roll-out would allow time to increase endoscopy capacity to meet programme requirements. Resource modelling of this type complements conventional cost-effectiveness analyses and can help inform policy making and service planning.

Keywords:
Colorectal cancer; Adenomatous polyps; Mass screening; Resource utilization; Markov chains