QALYs and Carers
When going 'beyond the patient', to measure QALYs for unpaid carers, a number of additional methodological considerations and value judgements must be made. While there is no theoretical reason to restrict the measurement of QALYs to patients, decisions have to be made about which carers to consider, what instruments to use and how to aggregate and present QALYs for carers and patients. Current, albeit limited, practice in measuring QALY gains to carers in economic evaluation varies, suggesting that there may be inconsistency in judgements about whether interventions are deemed cost effective. While conventional health-related quality-of-life tools can, in theory, be used to estimate QALYs, there are both theoretical and empirical concerns over the suitability of their use with carers. Measures that take a broader view of health or well-being may be more appropriate. Incorporating QALYs of carers in economic evaluations may have important distributional consequences and, therefore, greater normative discussion over the appropriateness of incorporating these impacts is required. In the longer term, more flexible forms of cost-per-QALY analysis may be required to take account of the broader impacts on carers and the weight these impacts should receive in decision making.
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