A time-and-motion approach to micro-costing of high-throughput genomic assays

S. Costa, D.A. Regier, B. Meissner, I. Cromwell, S. Ben-Neriah, E. Chavez, S. Hung, C. Steidl, D.W. Scott, M.A. Marra, S.J. Peacock, J.M. Connors



Genomic technologies are increasingly used to guide clinical decision-making in cancer control. Economic evidence about the cost-effectiveness of genomic technologies is limited, in part because of a lack of published comprehensive cost estimates. In the present micro-costing study, we used a time-and-motion approach to derive cost estimates for 3 genomic assays and processes—digital gene expression profiling (gep), fluorescence in situ hybridization (fish), and targeted capture sequencing, including bioinformatics analysis—in the context of lymphoma patient management.


The setting for the study was the Department of Lymphoid Cancer Research laboratory at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver, British Columbia. Mean per-case hands-on time and resource measurements were determined from a series of direct observations of each assay. Per-case cost estimates were calculated using a bottom-up costing approach, with labour, capital and equipment, supplies and reagents, and overhead costs included.


The most labour-intensive assay was found to be fish at 258.2 minutes per case, followed by targeted capture sequencing (124.1 minutes per case) and digital gep (14.9 minutes per case). Based on a historical case throughput of 180 cases annually, the mean per-case cost (2014 Canadian dollars) was estimated to be $1,029.16 for targeted capture sequencing and bioinformatics analysis, $596.60 for fish, and $898.35 for digital gep with an 807-gene code set.


With the growing emphasis on personalized approaches to cancer management, the need for economic evaluations of high-throughput genomic assays is increasing. Through economic modelling and budget-impact analyses, the cost estimates presented here can be used to inform priority-setting decisions about the implementation of such assays in clinical practice.


Personalized medicine; micro-costing; time-and-motion analyses; genomic technology; economic evaluations

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3747/co.23.2987

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)