PATH Workshop Summary

I recently had the pleasure of attending a two-day workshop entitled Introduction to Health Technology Assessment (HTA)1, put on by the Programs for Assessment of Technology in Health (PATH) Research Institute2.  I was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of knowledge of the speakers at this workshop, and by the scope of information covered in a relatively short amount of time (this was the first time that the workshop was cut down from its usual 3-4 day length to 2 days).  In this week’s blog I will share some things I learned about HTA, a highly-active and growing field with a substantial impact on healthcare.

HTA is a field that engages many different disciplines (medicine, economics, sociology, and ethics) to understand the value and use of health technology in healthcare.  A health technology is any method or intervention to:  i) promote health, ii) prevent, diagnose, or treat disease, or iii) improve rehabilitation and long-term care1.  While the term ‘health technology’ can include procedures and organizational systems, it most commonly refers to pharmaceuticals and medical devices.  The goal of HTA is to summarize the evidence on the costs and benefits of a health technology for use by policy-makers and other decision-makers.  Examples of people who would want an HTA include government representatives, managers of hospitals or other healthcare facilities, doctors/practitioners, and researchers.   Questions that an HTA might address include:  Should the government cover the cost of a new cancer screening test and, if so, in whom (i.e., in anyone over the age of 50 or only those showing symptoms)?  Should our hospital buy a newer version of an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) machine?

The concept of HTA and the formalization of the HTA process are relatively new, originating in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s, but international demand has been growing steadily since its inception.  Possible reasons for the rising demand for HTA’s include increased demand/need for evidence to support decision-making, increased healthcare spending, the growing rate of diffusion of new technologies1, and increased costs of wrong decisions.  For more information about Canadian HTA’s, check out the website of the largest body currently conducting HTA’s in Canada:  The Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH), a not-for-profit, independent national body funded by multiple levels of the government3.  HTA’s make significant contributions to healthcare by helping to efficiently allocate scarce resources, select cost-effective interventions and services, and remove obsolete interventions1.  We at MEMOTEXT are very happy to have learned about health technology assessment and are eager to incorporate its rigorous methodologies into our evidence-based mHealth interventions.

References:

  1. Introduction to Health Technology Assessment Workshop (2-day), November 21-22, 2012. http://www.path-hta.ca/Workshops/Health-Technology-Assessment-Workshop.aspx
  2. Programs for Assessment of Technology in Health (PATH) Research Institute http://www.path-hta.ca/Home.aspx, accessed December 4, 2012
  3. Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health http://www.cadth.ca/en/cadth, accessed December 7, 2012