Comparing Two Methods of Health Economic Analyses Used in Nursing Research

Carrie M. Doss, MSN, RN, CNOR


Nurs Econ. 2022;40(2):73-78. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


U.S. healthcare markets are complex and involve much uncertainty and variation. Health economic analysis methods can be used by nurse researchers and leaders. This interprofessional approach produces data-driven evidence for making resource-efficient decisions. Two economic models – cost-effectiveness analysis and cost-benefit analysis – are compared, including their applications and implications for assessing costs and defending investments.


Nursing services are a vital part of the healthcare delivery puzzle; without them, health care could not function efficiently. Registered nurses (RNs) are the largest sector of the U.S. healthcare workforce. There are approximately 3.8 million RNs across the nation and over half of these RNs work in inpatient settings (American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2019).

Estimating the cost of nursing services, known as valuation, is essential to gather and relay information to those able to invest and support these services, such as organizational leaders. Valuation of nursing services involves a thorough look at all resources. Without knowing the costs of a service or program, it is difficult to compare available alternatives (Rutherford, 2008). As healthcare service budgets are configured annually, it is important for nursing to communicate resource usage, gaps, and needs to stakeholders accurately. Stakeholders are the person(s) or entity paying for the goods or services and can be a community, patient, or organizational leader. Economics, especially health economic evaluation, is an interprofessional way to support such endeavors.

Health economics is about making decisions regarding resource allocation, such as labor, capital, and time. Resources are finite. Making significant decisions, especially in health care, can be difficult because it may involve making tough cuts in areas that can affect patient outcomes, such as nursing labor. Integrating evaluation methods, theories, and principles of health economics can and should be used in today's healthcare climate as an adjunct discipline to better understand alternatives for choices related to goods and services (Rambur, 2015). Developing and using evidence, especially in the nursing literature, is vital to guide this decision-making process. Learning about health economics and analysis methods can be like learning a new language. With time and practice, it can be integrated into everyday practice. The aim of this article is to (a) describe the benefits of using economic analysis methods for evaluation in nursing, (b) compare the two most used types of analyses, (c) discuss their applications in the nursing literature, and (d) discuss their implications for nurse leaders.