Objectives: The objectives of this study were (i) to develop a systematic framework for describing and comparing different features of health technology assessment (HTA) agencies, (ii) to identify and describe similarities and differences between the agencies, and (iii) to draw conclusions both for producers and users of HTA in research, policy, and practice.
Methods: We performed a systematic literature search, added information from HTA agencies, and developed a conceptual framework comprising eight main domains: organization, scope, processes, methods, dissemination, decision, implementation, and impact. We grouped relevant items of these domains in an evidence table and chose five HTA agencies to test our framework: DAHTA@DIMDI, HAS, IQWiG, NICE, and SBU. Item and domain similarity was assessed using the percentage of identical characteristics in pairwise comparisons across agencies. Results were interpreted across agencies by demonstrating similarities and differences.
Results: Based on 306 included documents, we identified 90 characteristics of eight main domains appropriate for our framework. After applying the framework to the five agencies, we were able to show 40 percent similarities in “dissemination,” 38 percent in “scope,” 35 percent in “organization,” 29 percent in “methods,” 26 percent in “processes,” 23 percent in “impact,” 19 percent in “decision,” and 17 percent in “implementation.”
Conclusion: We found considerably more differences than similarities of HTA features across agencies and countries. Our framework and comparison provides insights and clarification into the need for harmonization. Our findings could serve as descriptive database facilitating communication between producers and users.