Health Technology Assessment

What are health technologies?

According to the World Health Organization, Health Technology refers to “the application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives”. Health technologies are those to promote health, prevent and treat diseases and rehabilitate people, including:

  • Drugs
  • Medical devices
  • Procedures
  • Organizational and support systems within which health care is offered
  • Diagnostic screening

Health technologies can be organized into a hierarchy, considering the components used in each of the levels shown in the diagram below.

When organizational support components are external to the health sector, such as sanitation, education and labor rights, the combination of all the above components are the health technologies.

What is health technology assessment?

According to the World Health Organization, Health Technology Assessment (HTA) is the systematic evaluation of properties, effects, and/or impacts of health technology. Its main purpose is to inform technology-related policy-making in health care, and thus improve the uptake of cost-effective new technologies and prevent the uptake of technologies that are of doubtful value for the health system.

The HTA is a multidisciplinary area, in which different professionals such as physicians, engineers, economists, statisticians, mathematicians and researchers with different background use a variety of analytical methods to compare health technologies.

Health technology assessmente in the brazilian health system

New health technologies are being launched to the market every day and financing by the health system is being demanded by industry, patients and health professionals. These technologies comprise new drugs, medical devices and surgical procedures that are often launched on the market at higher prices than the therapeutic alternatives, when they exist.

Brazilian 1988 Constitution defines Health as a civil right and a State duty. However, the concept of comprehensive care cannot be interpreted as “all health technology available in the market to all people”, because it undermines the sustainability of the health system. Moreover, these technologies do not always show real benefits or satisfactory safety when compared to their alternatives. Therefore, health managers have to identify the population real health needs and use Health Technology Assessment to evaluate existing technologies. After that they have to elect the priority ones and organize access to services and products.

In the timeline below you’ll find the major milestones related to the implementation of HTA by Brazilian health system.

What are the main types of studies in hta?

Various types of studies are involved in ATS. Each is designed to answer a specific question and should be carried out according to a specific context. Primary or secondary studies may be used, i.e. original studies or studies in which original studies are used to produce a new conclusion. The major kinds of studies are depicted in the image below.

What are the stages of hta?

Health Technology Assessments first stage is the identification of the need to study the efficacy, effectiveness, safety and cost of various health technologies, compared to their standard treatments to decide on their availability or not to the society by the health system. Thus, the following steps represent the path to follow to develop recommendations on the technology assessed.