Objective: The aim of this report was to describe the history of health technology assessment (HTA) in the Netherlands.
Methods: This article is a descriptive review from two people who have been very much involved in the events described and is based on review of relevant policy documents and Web sites.
Results: HTA has been progressively developed in the Netherlands since (at least) the early 1980s. Beginning in 1985, there were progressive attempts to expand and institutionalized HTA in the Netherlands healthcare system. These attempts were generally successful, but did not result in a national agency for HTA. An important development in HTA in the Netherlands was a special fund (Ontwikkelingsgeneeskunde) designed to support prospective HTAs with the main purpose of affecting insurance coverage decisions. The administration of this fund moved progressively to broaden the subjects chosen for analysis to include such subjects as chronic illness and disability. A more-or-less hidden conflict developed in the question of the leadership and orientation of this fund, with the result that it was largely moved to a more research-oriented and less policy-oriented site.
Conclusions: The situation today is that HTA is visible and is used by the government in policy decisions, especially in the areas of prevention and screening. In addition, HTA is influential in insurance coverage decision making, especially in the field of pharmaceuticals. The principles of HTA and evidence-based medicine are generally familiar to physicians and other clinicians, however, the influence of HTA on clinical and administrative decisions is less than in some other countries.