Stat Methods Med Res. 2022 Aug 1:9622802221115876. doi: 10.1177/09622802221115876. Online ahead of print.
Evidence from observational studies has become increasingly important for supporting healthcare policy making via cost-effectiveness analyses. Similar as in comparative effectiveness studies, health economic evaluations that consider subject-level heterogeneity produce individualized treatment rules that are often more cost-effective than one-size-fits-all treatment. Thus, it is of great interest to develop statistical tools for learning such a cost-effective individualized treatment rule under the causal inference framework that allows proper handling of potential confounding and can be applied to both trials and observational studies. In this paper, we use the concept of net-monetary-benefit to assess the trade-off between health benefits and related costs. We estimate cost-effective individualized treatment rule as a function of patients’ characteristics that, when implemented, optimizes the allocation of limited healthcare resources by maximizing health gains while minimizing treatment-related costs. We employ the conditional random forest approach and identify the optimal cost-effective individualized treatment rule using net-monetary-benefit-based classification algorithms, where two partitioned estimators are proposed for the subject-specific weights to effectively incorporate information from censored individuals. We conduct simulation studies to evaluate the performance of our proposals. We apply our top-performing algorithm to the NIH-funded Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial to illustrate the cost-effectiveness gains of assigning customized intensive blood pressure therapy.