June2006

HOC – we need YOUR feedback!

Jun 9, 2006
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As we are now on our fifth issue of HOC, and our mailing list is expanding rapidly, we would greatly welcome some early feedback on how you view the newsletter and the value of its content by selecting one of the following links:

Click positive feedback if you find HOC’s content relevant and interesting, the overall image professional and well designed, and you are happy with the monthly frequency.

Click average feedback if you find the content of some interest, the overall presentation satisfactory or you would prefer to receive fortnightly.

Click negative feedback if HOC’s content serves no purpose, its image needs improving or you would prefer not to receive it.

If you would like to add any comments on your return email, we would be interested in your views on:

  • Image/Impact: Does HOC’s appearance invite you to read it? How could it be improved?
  • Content: Is it geared too closely or not closely enough towards health economists? Do you remember any particular article that stood out?
  • How useful do you find the “Watch your language” section?
  • Do you have any preference for topics in future editions?

We will publish all results and feedback anonymously in a future issue. Thank you for your input.

Watch your language

Jun 9, 2006
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Troublesome triads

  • Adjunctive therapy, adjuvant therapy, and neoadjuvant therapy.

Adjunctive therapy is treatment used together with the primary treatment. Adjuvant therapy is treatment given after the primary treatment to increase the chances of a cure. Neoadjuvant therapy is treatment given before the primary treatment. (Thanks to Amy Rothman Schonfeld for this one.)

  • Mean, median, average.

Mean and median are statistical terms; average is sometimes statistical. Mean is usually synonymous with average. It can be found by dividing the sum by the number of members in a group. The median is another type of average, and is the value below and above which there is an equal number of values or which is the arithmetic mean of the two middle values if there is no one middle number.

  • Medication, medicine, and medicament.

These words are virtually synonymous and can all mean therapeutic preparations or drugs. Medication (without being preceded by “a”) can also mean the treatment itself or administration of a therapeutic preparation. Medicine can also be defined as the science and art of maintaining health and preventing disease, or a branch of medicine dealing with nonsurgical treatment.

Singular or plural verb – do you know the answer?

1. A number of patients (was) (were) selected for the investigation.
2. A total of 257 products (was) (were) designated as orphan drugs by the FDA.
3. The number of erythrocytes (was) (were) excessive.
4. The total of students who were living on campus (was) (were) above capacity.

A number (a total) takes a plural verb. The number (the total) takes a singular verb.
Therefore: 1, were; 2, were; 3, was; 4, was.

1. None of the institutions in the consortium (has) (have) solutions to the problem of the uninsured.
2. As to the candidates for postdoctoral fellowships, none (is) (are) from this geographic region.

When none means not any, a plural verb is preferable. When none specifically means not one, a singular verb is preferable. Therefore: 1, have; 2, is.

Thanks to Edith Schwager, author of Medical English Usage and Abusage, Greenwood Publishing Group/Oryx Press.

Effective communication: Creating posters that get your message across

Jun 9, 2006
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By Clare Gurton

Getting your poster seen and read at an international or national conference can be something of a lottery – the space and location are decided for you and you may have only a few minutes in which to get your message across.

The audience is bombarded with hundreds of different messages during the course of the meeting and cannot hope to remember everything. While it is helpful to provide poster handouts, your poster must be competitive to succeed.

Two things are crucially important:

  • Make (1) your name and (2) your top-line message clear and very visible. The detail of any poster covers the factual data that support the message but is not the message itself; so if, for example, your data show that one product is economically superior to another, you need to say this several times in the same simple way – in the title (where possible), in the abstract and in the conclusions.
  • The poster needs to be designed so that this message is highlighted by use of colour, bold fonts and enlarged point sizes. Similarly, your name (or that of the first author) should be very visible and easy to read and remember. In this way, those who are interested in your data will retain the message and copy a name. When they return home after the meeting they are then easily able to get hold of all the other information either from the abstract book or by making contact.

Tips for communicating with email

Jun 9, 2006
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Email is a wonderful invention, but can also be the bane of your life if you become a slave to it. Striking a happy balance is difficult, but here are a few practices that might help.

When sending email:

  • Send it only to those who will benefit from your message. Don’t overload recipients with unnecessary information.
  • Write as if you are speaking.
  • Be polite when criticising.
  • Never argue aggressively or use abusive language.
  • Let people know whether you’re expressing opinions or stating facts.
  • Don’t use email as a substitute for face-to-face communication.
  • Get to the point quickly. When possible, keep your message to one screen-length of copy.

If you are receiving email:

  • Set aside two or three periods a day only for answering new email, unless a project is urgent.
  • Respond to and forward messages as soon as possible. Caution: If a message upsets you, take time to gather your thoughts – and then respond logically.
  • Don’t press the send button until you have walked away and left it.
  • Check old messages regularly and delete all unneeded mail.
  • Don’t stop working each time you receive a new message.

How to make the most of conferences

Jun 9, 2006
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Conference attendance can be a big part of your travel budget, and with these being limited at times, it’s important to make the most of the opportunity. Here we list a few pointers to help you focus.
  • List five things you hope to learn. Select sessions to attend or trade booths to visit, preferably before you get to the conference itself . If coworkers are attending too, coordinate with them so that, as a group, you’ll cover more.
  • List people you want to meet – attendees, speakers, media and exhibitors – and jot down questions you want to ask them. Pack lots of business cards.
  • Focus on reaching the objective you set on your various lists. Record one to three ideas you get from each session you attend or speech you hear. Seek out those you wanted to meet. Talk with as many new people as possible, and exchange business cards with everyone you meet. It can be useful to write on the back of their business card the topics you discussed as a reminder.
  • Digest new ideas into one page and share it with coworkers. File all the business cards you gathered. Follow up on promises made to send materials, or call.

Try at least one new idea in your working practice.

Finding those journals with a positive interest in health economics

Jun 9, 2006
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By Amy Rothman Schonfeld

Print journals remain one of the most credible sources for disseminating health economic research findings, and there is consensus about which are the core publications for communications within the field.

At least some health economists are stepping out of their “health economics shell” and looking beyond these traditional research outlets to other venues – whether speciality or general-interest medical publications or the general news media – to reach wider audiences.

Health Economics and the Journal of Health Economics are considered the premier journals for communicating with fellow health economists, according to Kevin Frick, PhD, an associate professor in the department of Health Policy Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Entries to these journals tend to be highly specialised and technical, and include empirical studies and theoretical contributions that focus on manpower planning and forecasting, financing of health services, cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses of procedures and treatments, and budgeting issues. In 2004, the ISI (Journal Citation Report Impact Factor)* was 2.495 for the Journal of Health Economics and 1.591 for Health Economics.

Three other journals are also highly regarded within the health economic field but have a broader readership: Medical Decision Making, Pharmacoeconomics, and Value in Health , according to Dr. Frick. The Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy and the American Journal of Managed Care are appropriate for economic valuations of medications and formulary decision making.

There is a growing appreciation within the health economic community that it is imperative to reach out to other audiences.“There’s a concern that journals like Health Economics and the Journal of Health Economics are not being read by managed care medical directors or other leaders that are making decisions about health care dollars,” Jennifer Lofland, PharmD, MPH, PhD, Research Assistant Professor of Medicine, and Project Director, Department of Health Policy, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, told us. She suggests that authors should look to publications that focus on treating specific clinical diseases, especially those with wide readership like the Archives of Internal Medicine or the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Frick adds JAMA to this list. “In my mind, JAMA has the distinction of being one of the few journals that is not an economics journal but holds authors of cost/effectiveness articles to some very high standards in terms of what needs to be in an article in order to be accepted – but makes it very easy and transparent for readers to understand what is being presented.”

Frick strongly believes that reaching out and educating other health professionals is an essential part of the professional responsibilities of a health economist. He suggests that colleagues should volunteer to serve on the editorial board of journals outside their speciality and review articles for publications if asked. “There must be a willingness among health economists to do the reviews, even if it’s not a journal they would pick up themselves,” says Frick. “If we’re not willing to participate in that quality control which extends beyond our immediate profession, there are going to be bad articles published.”

Lofland has been noticing recently that health economic reporting is appearing in mainstream venues, although she knows of only a handful of health economists who seek those outlets. “If we could have more of that [type of exposure], that would be even better, because my impression is that more people read the Wall Street Journal than read the Journal of Health Economics.”

* The Journal Citation Report Impact Factor or ISI is a quantitative measure of the frequency with which the average article published in a given scientific journal has been cited in a particular year or period , and is generally considered  to be a measure of the importance of a scientific journal. As a rule of thumb, an impact factor above 1.5 is fairly respectable. Many journals don’t have impact factors at all – and the creme de la creme can be above 30 e.g. the New England Journal of Medicine. JAMA impact factor is over 21, Archives of internal Medicine is over 6; you can generally find these figures from the journal websites or the ISI Journal citation reports for the previous year. http://scientific.thomson.com/products/jcr

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