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The Spanish Network of Agencies for Assessing National Health System Technologies and Performance (RedETS) defined a patient involvement (PI) framework for health technology assessment (HTA) activities in 2016. The aim of this study is to evaluate the process and impact of those PI initiatives that were implemented in the first year following the publication of this new framework.
A survey was sent to those HTA researchers who implemented PI in RedETS projects. Responses were reviewed by two authors. An adapted thematic analysis was performed and the results were later discussed by all authors.
Six responses from six agencies/units were analyzed. The objectives of PI initiatives were the following: inclusion of patient perspectives, preferences and values; elicitation of important health outcomes measures; and barriers, facilitators, or suggestions for implementation. Different methods were used for PI: surveys, focus groups, in depth interviews, and participation in an expert panel. Five main themes emerged: (i) challenges with the recruitment process, (ii) needs identified, (iii) impact of PI, (iv) lessons learned, and (v) suggestions for the future.
PI initiatives within the RedETS framework were tailored to each HTA project, its specific goals and the individual needs and resources of each HTA agency. The results also pointed out how PI has a relevant impact that has enriched RedETS products providing key information on experiences, values, and preferences of patients, contributions that benefit the HTA and the process of drawing up recommendations. The main challenges were related to recruitment processes and capacity building.
Conclusions and recommendations of health technology assessment (HTA) reports have an impact on all relevant actors involved in the health system (health authorities, administrators, health professionals, patients, citizens and industry). The involvement of all those relevant stakeholders in the HTA process facilitates making valid and informed decisions and an efficient allocation of resources. Improving communication, participation and transparency among all agents will lead to more efficient evaluation and decision-making processes.
To review key aspects of the relations between HTA agencies and health industries, two process were carried out: a narrative review of literature searched in Medline, PubMed, Embase, CINAHL and WOS (2007-2017) and a review of websites of international HTA agencies. References and webs with information on the framework, objectives, methodologies, impact or results of the relationships were included.
A total of 1961 references were located and forty-five were selected. From the synthesis of the selected references the following key aspects of the relationships between HTA and industry were identified: (i) the importance of early dialogues with industry to align HTA objectives with the generation of evidence; (ii) challenges of the bias in the evidence produced by industry; (iii) difficulties in industry engagement in HTA processes; and (iv) industry interest in HTA. The review of six agency websites provided information on industry involvement in strategic activities, early dialogues, provision of documentation, management of industry clarifications, review of the report/allegations and other forms of relationship.
Both the review of the literature and the contents of the web pages of international agencies with experience in relations with industry show that the interest is in the creation of collaborative frameworks between regulatory authorities that decide on authorization and price and reimbursement and HTA agencies, while both try to maintain an early, transparent and systematic interaction with the healthcare industry.
In December 2017, a patient involvement (PI) Interest Group was created in the Spanish Network of Agencies for Assessing National Health System Technologies and Performance (RedETS) Annual conference. It started as a voluntary group of health technology assessment (HTA) methodologists interested in PI. The objective of the Group is to promote and facilitate PI in HTA. With the support of the Spanish Ministry of Health and the RedETS Council the Interest Group grew to at least one member for each of the eight RedETS regional agencies and units. It currently has 22 members. The PI Interest Group works in periodic online meetings and an annual offline meeting to establish a space for experiences exchange and reach consensus on main issues regarding PI.
RedETS published a strategy to facilitate effective and efficient PI in HTA processes in 2017. The long-term objective is to mainstream PI in all RedETS products. This strategy was built on a literature review and a qualitative study with semi-structured interviews. The interviews detected capacity building needs for technicians and methodologist in the network to be able to actively engage patients in HTA reports.
Since the kick-off meeting the PI Interest Group has worked in a number of activities. The main lines of action since its creation were: (i) evaluation of PI process in RedETS HTA reports in 2017 and in current reports, (ii) discussion on main methodological and procedural aspects, and feasibility of different patient participation approaches, (iii) development of technical protocols and templates to facilitate PI, (iv) the creation/adaptation of educational materials for patients and (v) translation of the HTAi Glossary for patients to Spanish.
Peer-to-peer learning processes can foster technical capacity of HTA methodologist in the Spanish HTA Network and may favor the implementation of the PI strategy.
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