The assessment of medical technologies has to answer several questions ranging from safety and effectiveness to complex economical, social, and health policy issues. The type of data needed to carry out such evaluation depends on the specific questions to be answered, as well as on the stage of development of a technology.
Basically two types of data may be distinguished: (a) general demographic, administrative, or financial data which has been collected not specifically for technology assessment; (b) the data collected with respect either to a specific technology or to a disease or medical problem.
On the basis of a pilot inquiry in Europe and bibliographic research, the following categories of type (b) data bases have been identified: registries, clinical data bases, banks of factual and bibliographic knowledge, and expert systems. Examples of each category are discussed briefly. The following aims for further research and practical goals are proposed: criteria for the minimal data set required, improvement to the registries and clinical data banks, and development of an international clearinghouse to enhance information diffusion on both existing data bases and available reports on medical technology assessments.