BACKGROUND: This health-economic evaluation assessed the cost-effectiveness of an exercise referral scheme (ERS) versus doing nothing in the Flemish region (Belgium), with a particular focus on the impact of several scenarios.
METHODS: A 14-state Markov model was applied to compare the expected costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) of 2 alternatives: the Flemish ERS (2019 data, mean age 52 y, 69.1% women) and doing nothing. A health care payer perspective was adopted and a lifetime time horizon was applied. A set of 18 scenario analyses is presented. In addition, univariate and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were performed.
RESULTS: Under the assumptions selected for the base-case analysis, the Flemish ERS is moderately cost-effective compared with doing nothing, with an incremental cost-utility ratio of €28,609/QALY. Based on the scenario analyses, the results largely depend on the assumptions regarding the continuation of the intervention effect and the frequency with which the intervention is repeated. The greatest health gains can be made when a sustainable behavioral change is achieved among participants. The probabilistic sensitivity analysis confirmed that the cost-effectiveness results were not robust.
CONCLUSIONS: If it is possible to induce a sustainable behavioral change with an intervention delivered at 2- or 5-year intervals, then the Flemish ERS is potentially cost-effective compared with doing nothing (given a €40,000/QALY threshold). These results suggest the importance of repeated implementation of the program together with careful monitoring of the adherence and the sustainability of the observed effects in a real-world setting.