Self-reported and routinely collected electronic healthcare resource-use data for trial-based economic evaluations: the current state of play in England and considerations for the future

Matthew Franklin*, Joanna Thorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
945 Downloads (Pure)


Background. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are generally regarded as the “gold standard” for providing quantifiable evidence around the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of new healthcare technologies. In order to perform the economic evaluations associated with RCTs, there is a need for accessible and good quality resource-use data; for the purpose of discussion here, data that best reflect the care received.

Traditionally, researchers have developed questionnaires for resource-use data collection. However, the evolution of routinely collected electronic data within care services provides new opportunities for collecting data without burdening patients or caregivers (e.g. clinicians). This paper describes the potential strengths and limitations of each data collection method and then discusses aspects for consideration before choosing which method to use.

Main text. We describe electronic data sources (large observational datasets, commissioning data, and raw data extraction) that may be suitable data sources for informing clinical trials and the current status of self-reported instruments for measuring resource-use. We assess the methodological risks and benefits, and compare the two methodologies. We focus on healthcare resource-use; however, many of the considerations have relevance to clinical questions.

Patient self-report forms a pragmatic and cheap method that is largely under the control of the researcher. However, there are known issues with the validity of the data collected, loss to follow-up may be high, and questionnaires suffer from missing data. Routinely collected electronic data may be more accurate and more practical if large numbers of patients are involved. However, datasets often incur a cost and researchers are bound by the time for data approval and extraction by the data holders.

Conclusions. Owing to the issues associated with electronic datasets, self-reported methods may currently be the preferred option. However, electronic hospital data are relatively more accessible, informative, standardised, and reliable. Therefore in trials where secondary care constitutes a major driver of patient care, detailed electronic data may be considered superior to self-reported methods; with the caveat of requiring data sharing agreements with third party providers and potentially time-consuming extraction periods. Self-reported methods will still be required when a ‘societal’ perspective (e.g. quantifying informal care) is desirable for the intended analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Medical Research Methodology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2019


  • Big data
  • Data collection methodology
  • Large observational datasets
  • Routinely collected data
  • Self-report
  • Trial-based evaluation


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