Objectives: In early stages, the consequences of innovations are often unknown or deeply uncertain, which complicates early health economic modeling (EHEM). The field of decision making under deep uncertainty uses exploratory modeling (EM) in situations when the system model, input probabilities/distributions, and consequences are unknown or debated. Our aim was to evaluate the use of EM for early evaluation of health technologies. Methods: We applied EM and EHEM to an early evaluation of minimally invasive endoscopy-guided surgery (MIS) for acute intracerebral hemorrhage and compared these models to derive differences, merits, and drawbacks of EM. Results: EHEM and EM differ fundamentally in how uncertainty is handled. Where in EHEM the focus is on the value of technology, while accounting for the uncertainty, EM focuses on the uncertainty. EM aims to find robust strategies, which give relatively good outcomes over a wide range of plausible futures. This was reflected in our case study. EHEM provided cost-effectiveness thresholds for MIS effectiveness, assuming fixed MIS costs. EM showed that a policy with a population in which most patients had severe intracerebral hemorrhage was most robust, regardless of MIS effectiveness, complications, and costs. Conclusions: EHEM and EM were found to complement each other. EM seems most suited in the very early phases of innovation to explore existing uncertainty and many potential strategies. EHEM seems most useful to optimize promising strategies, yet EM methods are complex and might only add value when stakeholders are willing to consider multiple solutions to a problem and adopt flexible research and adoption strategies.
- decision making under deep uncertainty
- early health technology assessment
- health economic modeling