Senior Professor Simon Eckermann, of the University of Wollongong and the Australian Health Services Research Institute, is a leading researcher internationally in health economics, an increasingly influential field for optimising research, reimbursement and regulation of health care services.
Professor Eckermann has been at the forefront of forging methods for each of these key areas of health economic analysis in collaboration with international colleagues such as biostatistician Professor Andrew Willan from Canada, and Professor Andrew Briggs, from the UK.
Since the early 1990's, Professor Eckermann has undertaken research with key national bodies including the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Clinical Trials Centre, the Flinders University Centre for Clinical Change and Health Care Research and The National Palliative Care Collaborative.
In this research he has led the development of original health economic methods that optimise trial design, evidence synthesis and translation and comparisons in practice and provide missing links across research, reimbursement and regulatory decisions. These methods have been widely published in the highest tier international journals for health economics, medical decision making, public policy and social science.
Since 2005, Professor Eckermann has taught his methods from first principles for optimal decision making across research, reimbursement and regulation in the Health Economics from Theory to Practice short course, a three-day course developed with Professor Willan.
More than 300 participants have successfully undertaken the course, which covers optimal methods to inform decision making including:
i. Appropriate threshold pricing of new technologies relative to the health shadow price – reflecting most cost effective expansion of existing programs funded by contraction of the least cost-effective;
ii. avoiding inferential fallacies in evidence synthesis and translation;
iii. practical methods for economic evaluation of community based health promotion programs and palliative care settings; iv. creating incentives for budget constrained net benefit maximising quality of care in multiple provider practice as well as multiple strategy and multiple domain comparison
v. value of information methods for optimal trial design, and;
vi. the policy importance of primary care, disease prevention and health promotion in tacking policy issues such as successful baby boomer ageing.
These areas are also highlighted in a related book commissioned by Springer to be released in January 2017: Health Economics from Theory to Practice: Optimally Informing Joint Decisions of Research, Reimbursement and Regulation with Health System Budget Constraints and Community Objectives.
This text provides “a robust set of health economic principles and methods to inform societal decisions in relation to research, reimbursement and regulation (pricing and monitoring of performance in practice)” and facilitates “efficient health system decision making processes,” according to the publisher.
Alongside his methods research, Professor Eckermann has led applied health economics studies as part of clinical studies of national and international significance in a diverse range of areas including palliative care, coronary heart disease, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) treatment and in community health promotion.
As chief investigator Professor Eckermann has been successful in competitively funded collaborative research studies totalling more than $25 million over the past decade.
The value of the knowledge and skills health economists can bring to the table is further demonstrated by Professor Eckermann’s expert advice and education activities with influential groups such as the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, the Prostheses List Advisory Committee, the NHMRC, the Victorian Cancer Agency, and the National Palliative Care Collaborative Scientific Committee.
Professor Eckermann also regularly contributes to optimising design, analysis and, where appropriate, policy implications of health related multidisciplinary projects.
Recently he has helped design ongoing successful competitive grant projects for investigating whether omega-3 supplements lessen aggressive behaviour; for promoting physical activity among preschool aged children from disadvantaged communities; addressing mental health issues in adolescent males; and a multidisciplinary initiative that’s encouraging communities to be more accessible for the elderly, particularly those living with dementia.
The challenge of successful aging of the baby boomer cohort (born 1946-1964) who are now entering their eighth decade highlight health and social system policy challenges and how crucial evidence based healthcare policy and action is.
Not surprisingly, policy reform around successful ageing in the community, dementia friendly aged care design and palliative care are areas that Professor Eckermann is currently researching.
“We need to look at health and age system reforms that support community preferences for successful ageing. These include age and dementia friendly communities, environments and architecture, and research supporting better use of existing technology and more appropriate pricing and integration of new technology,” he says.