Health technology assessment

Overview

In recent years a number of EU countries have introduced so-called health technology assessments (HTA). HTA measures the added value of a new health technology compared to existing ones. Examples of health technologies include medicinal products, medical equipment, diagnostic and treatment methods, rehabilitation, and prevention methods.

How does it work?

When HTA bodies are asked to evaluate a new health technology, they have to assess whether it works better, equally well, or worse than existing alternatives. For this, they typically need to assess the therapeutic effect of the drug, but also potential side-effects, influence on quality of life and means of administration.

HTA also assess other aspects of the use of the technology, for example its cost implications for the patient and its impact on the organisation of healthcare systems in the administration of treatment. It is therefore a multidisciplinary process that reviews the medical, economic, organisational, social and ethical issues related to the use of a health technology in a systematic manner.

Impact

The main purpose of HTA is to provide policy-makers with evidence based information, so they can formulate health policies that are safe, effective, patient-focused and cost-effective. It is also used by national authorities to help decisions on which technology should be reimbursed at national level.

EU cooperation on HTA

HTA is an important part of evidence-based decision-making on health in most EU countries.

EU cooperation on HTA has two main components:

  • The HTA network connects national authorities or bodies responsible for HTA. The Network was introduced by Directive 2011/24/EU on the application of patients’ rights in cross-border healthcare to provide strategic guidance and policy orientation for scientific and technical cooperation.
  • While participation is voluntary, all EU countries have applied for membership and participate. The HTA Network develops policy papers and discusses areas of potential collaboration, which are then implemented by the Joint Action below, in accordance with its work plan.
  • EUnetHTA Joint Action 3 is the scientific and technical component of EU cooperation on HTA. It was launched in June 2016, and runs until 2020. The Joint Action is funded by the EU Health Programme and includes government appointed organisations (from EU countries, EU-accession countries, EEA and EFTA countries), and a large number of relevant regional agencies and not-for-profit organisations that produce or contribute to HTA in Europe.

Strengthening EU cooperation on HTA beyond 2020

In its 2017 work programme, the European Commission announced that it would introduce an initiative on strengthening EU cooperation on HTA to improve the functioning of the single market for health products.