Eliciting expert opinion for economic models: an applied example.
Leal J., Wordsworth S., Legood R., Blair E.
OBJECTIVES: Expert opinion is considered as a legitimate source of information for decision-analytic modeling where required data are unavailable. Our objective was to develop a practical computer-based tool for eliciting expert opinion about the shape of the uncertainty distribution around individual model parameters. METHODS: We first developed a prepilot survey with departmental colleagues to test a number of alternative approaches to eliciting opinions on the shape of the uncertainty distribution around individual parameters. This information was used to develop a survey instrument for an applied clinical example. This involved eliciting opinions from experts to inform a number of parameters involving Bernoulli processes in an economic model evaluating DNA testing for families with a genetic disease, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. The experts were cardiologists, clinical geneticists, and laboratory scientists working with cardiomyopathy patient populations and DNA testing. RESULTS: Our initial prepilot work suggested that the more complex elicitation techniques advocated in the literature were difficult to use in practice. In contrast, our approach achieved a reasonable response rate (50%), provided logical answers, and was generally rated as easy to use by respondents. The computer software user interface permitted graphical feedback throughout the elicitation process. The distributions obtained were incorporated into the model, enabling the use of probabilistic sensitivity analysis. CONCLUSION: There is clearly a gap in the literature between theoretical elicitation techniques and tools that can be used in applied decision-analytic models. The results of this methodological study are potentially valuable for other decision analysts deriving expert opinion.