Redefining health technology assessment in Canada: diversification of products and contextualization of findings

Pascale Lehoux, Stéphanie Tailliez, Jean-Louis Denis, Myriam Hivon
International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care 2004, 20 (3): 325-36

OBJECTIVES: While strategies for enhancing the dissemination and impact of Health Technology Assessment (HTA) are now being increasingly examined, the characteristics of HTA production have received less attention.

METHODS: This study presents the results of a content analysis of the HTA documents (n = 187) produced by six Canadian agencies from 1995 to 2001, supplemented by interviews with chief executive officers and researchers (n = 40). The goal of this analysis was to characterize the agencies' portfolios and to analyze the challenges these agencies face in responding to the increased demand for HTA.

RESULTS: On average, thirty HTA products were issued annually by the agencies. While the bulk of documents produced were full HTA reports (76 percent), two agencies showed significant diversification in their products. Three agencies in particular actively supported the publication of results in scientific journals. Three agencies showed evidence of adapting to different institutional environments by specializing in certain areas (drugs, health services). Overall, a significant portion of the agencies' HTAs contained data on costs (37 percent) and effectiveness (48 percent), whereas ethical and social issues were rarely addressed (17 percent). Most agencies addressed issues and outcomes that did not strictly fall under the typical definition of HTA but that increased the "contextualization" of their findings.

CONCLUSIONS: Our discussion highlights four paradoxes and reflects further on challenges raised by the coordination of HTA within large countries and among European states. This study concludes that HTA is being redefined in Canada as HTA agencies offer a more contextualized informational basis, an approach that may prove more compatible with the increased demand for HTA.


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