Health technology assessment in Canada. A decade in review.

TitleHealth technology assessment in Canada. A decade in review.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsMenon D, Topfer LA
JournalInternational journal of technology assessment in health care
Date Published2000 Summer
KeywordsCanada; Government Agencies; Health Policy; Humans; Program Evaluation; Technology Assessment, Biomedical
AbstractOBJECTIVES: Since 1988, four government-funded health technology assessment (HTA) agencies have been established in Canada. This paper is a descriptive review of reports issued by these organizations during the period from 1988 to 1998. METHODS: Publications from the national and three provincial HTA agencies in Canada were obtained and reviewed. Only the 117 assessment reports that were reported to have undergone external review were included in this analysis. Each report was classified on a standard abstraction form according to criteria such as technology type(s), assessment focus, whether a specific policy question was clearly stated and relevant decision maker(s) identified, description of search strategy and selection criteria, sources of data and assessment methods used, whether recommendations or conclusions were made, and duplication or overlap of reports. The trends in these qualities over the 10-year period were also examined. RESULTS: Therapeutic technologies have received the most attention from all four agencies, although the focus on devices, drugs, and procedures varied between agencies. The policy question under investigation was clearly identified in 82% of reports, and 71% clearly identified the decision maker toward whom the assessment was targeted. Efficacy or effectiveness was examined in 81% of reports, and costs were assessed in 65% of studies. These were the two most frequently examined aspects. Almost all assessments were descriptive literature reviews; 9% included meta-analyses and 32% had cost analyses or economic evaluations. Forty-four percent of reports had a clear description of the literature search strategy, and selection criteria were clearly specified in 38% of studies, but there was considerable variation among agencies in the level of description of these methods. Conclusions were clearly stated in 83% of the assessments' conclusions, and 13% had recommendations. When analyzed longitudinally, it is apparent that the quality of reports has improved markedly during the past decade. This was determined by examining the clarity of specifying the policy question(s) under investigation, the identification of the target audience of decision makers for the information, and by evaluating the thoroughness of the description of the methods used in the assessment. CONCLUSIONS: Canadian government agencies have contributed a considerable quantity of health technology assessments. There has been very little duplication of technologies evaluated, and the quality of the assessment reports has markedly improved during the past decade.
Alternate JournalInt J Technol Assess Health Care