Exploring the Integration of Environmental Impacts in the Cost Analysis of the Pilot MEL-SELF Trial of Patient-Led Melanoma Surveillance.
Aims: Human health is intrinsically linked with planetary health. But planetary resources are currently being degraded and this poses an existential threat to human health and the sustainability of our healthcare systems. The aims of this study were to (1) describe an approach to integrate environmental impacts in a cost analysis; and (2) demonstrate this approach by estimating select environmental impacts alongside traditional health system and other costs using the example of the pilot MEL-SELF randomised controlled trial of patient-led melanoma surveillance.
Methods: Economic costs were calculated alongside a randomised trial using standard cost analysis methodology from a societal perspective. Environmental impacts were calculated using a type of carbon footprinting methodology called process-based life cycle analysis. This method considers three scopes of carbon emissions: Scope 1, which occur directly from the intervention; Scope 2, which occur indirectly from the intervention’s energy use; and Scope 3, which occur indirectly because of the value chain of the intervention. In this study we only included emissions from patient transport to attend their melanoma clinic over the study period of 6 months.
Results: The environmental impact per participant across allocated groups for patient transport to their melanoma clinic was estimated to be 10 kg carbon dioxide equivalent. Economic costs across the allocated groups indicated substantial health system costs, out-of-pocket costs, and productivity losses associated with melanoma surveillance. The largest cost contributor was health system costs, and the most expensive category of health system cost was hospital admission.
Conclusion: Calculating environmental impacts is worthwhile and feasible within a cost analysis framework. Further work is needed to address outstanding conceptual and practical issues so that a comprehensive assessment of environmental impacts can be considered alongside economic costs in health technology assessments.