Objectives: Many innovative health technologies do not have a sufficient evidence-base to allow for adequate assessment of their benefits. Funders in several countries have been exploring arrangements that allow for temporary or partial coverage of these technologies, but only as part of a further evaluation. The public's support of arrangements that restrict access to innovative technology until sufficient evidence is available is crucial if these arrangements are going to remain viable. The project's other objective is to examine the lay public's views on a case in which patients’ publicly funded access to an innovative health technology is being delayed until there is sufficient evidence to justify a coverage decision. The case considered is the Ontario (Canada) government's decision to restrict access to positron emission tomography (PET) scans until further evidence becomes available.
Methods: The case was deliberated on by twenty-six members of the Toronto Health Policy Citizens' Council, with a follow-up survey administered to individual council members.
Results: The majority of council members agreed that the approach taken by the government was reasonable and in the best interests of its citizens. The council did express concerns regarding certain aspects of the case, including about the length of time it is taking to obtain further evidence.
Conclusions: Public support for arrangements that limit access to new technologies will likely vary depending on the details of the specific arrangement being proposed. Deliberative public dialogue can be effectively used to identify cases the general public is most likely to support.