The cost-effectiveness plane is used to visually represent the differences in costs and health outcomes between treatment alternatives in two dimensions, by plotting the costs against effects on a graph. Health outcomes (effects) are usually plotted on the x axis and costs on the y axis. A steep line between two points in the plane represents poorer cost-effectiveness (higher ICER: extra cost per unit of health gain) for the more expensive alternative. Frequently ‘current practice’ is plotted at the origin, and so the x and y values represent incremental health outcomes and incremental costs versus current practice. More than two points can be represented on the plane, with the line connecting cost-effective alternatives being called the cost-effectiveness frontier. The cost-effectiveness plane is divided into four quadrants: most cost-effectiveness analyses deliver results in the north-east (NE) quadrant, in which new interventions generate more health gains but are more expensive. Other quadrants are relevant when a new intervention generates poorer health outcomes (NW or SW) or lower costs (SW or SE). Cost-effectiveness planes are also useful to show the uncertainty around cost-effectiveness outcomes, often represented as a cloud of points on the plane corresponding to different iterations of an economic model in a (probabilistic) sensitivity analysis.

How to cite: Cost-Effectiveness Plane [online]. (2016). York; York Health Economics Consortium; 2016. https://www.yhec.co.uk/glossary/cost-effectiveness-plane/

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