The progress being made in medicine and the discussion of scarce resources in the healthcare system make the need to question the efficacy of health benefits and the efficient use of resources more important than ever. When health products and technologies are assessed, the point is not simply to establish whether a new analysis, surgical technique or medicine is effective, but also how great the added value is compared to existing interventions.
The term Health Technology Assessment (HTA) has become established for this systematic evaluation of medical procedures and technologies. The objective of this benefit assessment must be to keep the health service open to innovations in order to improve the quality of care and treatment outcomes.
Not a tool for rationing
Major efforts are being undertaken worldwide to assess prevention, diagnosis, therapies, medicinal products, organisational structures and chains of care in order to provide the authorities with a basis for taking health-policy decisions that will be accepted by the population. Systems like HTA for assessing health benefits can provide important information on the relative efficiency of therapeutic alternatives and are thus an important decision-making aid.
Reinforcement of health technology assessments is one of the health-policy priorities established by the Federal Council in the Health2020 Strategy. In this context, the federal government has launched an HTA programme to re-evaluate benefits already being reimbursed by the statutory health insurance system, and this programme will gradually be established and expanded in the coming years. In this context, HTA can enable transparent, evidence-based decisions to be taken so that ineffective and inefficient benefits can be reduced, the quality of the healthcare system can be increased and costs can be lowered.
HTA must meet demanding requirements
Expansion of cost-effectiveness assessments like HTA is a demanding task. They are cost-intensive and therefore require a clear focus. They should examine entire treatment pathways and organisational structures rather than individual interventions. Furthermore, an assessment of health benefits must be based on solid scientific methods and their use must be transparent, timely, balanced and fair. Activities without prior consultation can lead to duplication and unnecessary bureaucracy. It is therefore important to avoid overlap in order to make as efficient use as possible of scarce resources.