Objectives: The objective of this study is to profile the health technology assessments (HTAs) produced in Canada and other selected countries and assess their potential to inform policy making about health systems in jurisdictions other than the ones for which they were produced, and to develop and pilot test prototypes for packaging and assessing the relevance of HTAs for health system managers and policy makers.
Methods: We compiled an inventory of all HTAs that were produced by nine HTA agencies between September 2003 and August 2006; coded the title and abstract of each HTA according to the technologies assessed, methods used, and whether or not context-specific actionable messages were provided; developed a prototype for a structured, decision-relevant HTA summary and for a relevance-assessment form; and pilot-tested the prototypes using semistructured telephone interviews with a purposive sample of Canadian healthcare managers and policy makers.
Results: Our review of the 223 HTAs identified that: (i) 44 HTAs addressed health system arrangements (20 percent); (ii) 205 incorporated a systematic review (92 percent), whereas only 12 incorporated a sociopolitical assessment using explicit methods (5 percent); and (iii) 50 contained context-specific actionable messages (22 percent). Our interviews identified significant support for both the general idea of an HTA summary and the prototype's specific elements, but mixed views about using peer assessments of relevance.
Conclusions: Those involved in supporting the use of HTAs in policy making about health systems may wish to produce structured decision-relevant summaries for their systematic review-containing HTAs to increase the prospects for their HTAs being used outside the jurisdiction for which they were produced.