Professor Andrew Searles
The aim of my work is to bring a practical economic viewpoint to health-related issues. This viewpoint is often required before health and medical discoveries can translate into use by healthcare systems. Healthcare providers need to know whether the new intervention works (e.g. whether it has better health outcomes than current care) and what the consequential cost of utilising the new intervention or technology will be. This involves the use of “applied” economic techniques.
The result of these applied techniques is information that's used directly by healthcare providers and policymakers. My use of health economics extends from projects focused on hospital-based clinical interventions through to primary care in the community. I also work regularly with organisations focused on improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote Australia.
A further body of work that I am heavily involved with is the use economic techniques to measure the broader impact from funded translational health and medical research. This research answers the question “what is the return to the community from investments into health and medical research?” The driver for this work is the need to demonstrate the return on investment from funded research – increasingly public and private sector research funders are demanding this information.
As a society we can't afford to pay for everything we would like, so choices need to be made as to what will be funded. To make these choices we need to know whether an intervention works and whether it is better than what we already do. If an intervention does work, there will be a cost impact and health economists identify what this cost is.
Many people think economics is focused on cost-cutting, but it is actually about providing information so that, as a community, we make choices that provide better value for money. My drive is to use applied economics to help the healthcare system adopt cost-effective therapies. This helps translational researchers, the healthcare system and taxpayers who predominantly fund both research and the healthcare system.
My goal is to maximise the likelihood of good evidence-based decisions about the adoption of new health technologies at a price that is affordable to the community. Health economics is an ongoing process with the overall aim of ensuring efficiency and effectiveness in our healthcare system.
After being awarded his PhD in 2010, Professor Andrew Searles made the transition to academia in 2013 from employment in industry as an economist and Director of Research in a private sector research role.
Since joining HMRI, he has applied economic thinking to health-related issues. This has involved the conduct of cost-benefit evaluations as well as the development of costing models, which are important for identifying the resource implications of health initiatives.
Apart from economic evaluations, a major component of Professor Searles' research effort focuses on impact assessments. Specifically, this has entailed the development of a framework to measure research translation and research impact. This framework is being used in funded NHMRC Centres of Research Excellence. This work builds on his PhD where he designed and implemented an impact framework to capture the flow-on effects from a major trade agreement with potential impacts on the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Professor Searles has presented his work nationally and internationally, and has actively contributed to policy in Australia through invited briefings for Federal Parliamentarians on the PBS and other economic issues.
ABC Newcastle interview with Kia Handley - 7 May 2019