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Consideration of ethical, legal, and social issues plus patient values (ELSI+) in health technology assessment (HTA) is challenging because of a lack of conceptual clarity and the multi-disciplinary nature of ELSI+. We used concept mapping to identify key concepts and inter-relationships in the ELSI+ domain and provide a conceptual framework for consideration of ELSI+ in HTA.
We conducted a scoping review (Medline and EMBASE, 2000–2016) to identify ELSI+ issues in the HTA literature. Items from the scoping review and an expert brainstorming session were consolidated into eighty ELSI+-related statements, which were entered into Concept Systems® Global MAX™ software. Participants (N = 38; 36 percent worked as researchers, 21 percent as academics; 42 percent self-identified as HTA experts) sorted the statements into thematic groups, and rated them on importance in making decisions about adopting technologies in Canada, from 1 (not at all important) to 5 (extremely important). We used Concept Systems® Global MAX™ software to create and analyze concept maps with four to sixteen clusters.
Our final ELSI+ map consisted of five clusters, with each cluster representing a different concept and the statements within each cluster representing the same concept. Based on the concepts, we named these clusters: patient preferences/experiences, patient quality of life/function, patient burden/harm, fairness, and organizational. The highest mean importance ratings were for the statements in the patient burden/harm (3.82) and organizational (3.92) clusters.
This study suggests an alternative approach to ELSI+, based on conceptual coherence rather than academic disciplines. This will provide a foundation for incorporating ELSI+ into HTA.
Health technology assessment (HTA) is value-laden. Consideration of ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI), and patient values (ELSI+), is challenged by lack of conceptual clarity and the multi-disciplinary nature of ELSI + . This study used concept mapping to identify key concepts in the ELSI+ domain and their interrelationships.
We conducted a scoping review using Medline and EMBASE (2000-2016, English language) with search terms related to ethics, legal/law, social/society/patient, “ELSI”, and HTA/technology/assessment. Items from the review and additional items from an expert brainstorming session were consolidated into 80 ELSI+-related statements which were entered into Concept Systems® Global MAX software. Participants (N = 38; 36 percent researchers, 21 percent academics; 42 percent self-identified as HTA experts) sorted the statements into thematic groups that made sense to them, and rated the statements on their importance in decision-making about adoption of technologies in Canada: 1 (not at all important), 5 (extremely important), 2, 3, and 4 (unlabeled). We used Concept Systems® Global MAX software to create and analyze concept maps with four to 16 clusters, which were reviewed by the study team.
We selected the map with five clusters because its clusters represented different concepts and the statements within each cluster represented the same concept. Based on the concepts, we named these clusters: patient preferences and experiences, patient quality of life and function, patient burden/harm, fairness, and organizational. The highest mean importance ratings were for the statements in the patient burden/harm (3.82) and organizational (3.92) clusters.
This study suggests an alternative approach to conceptualize the domains originally described as “ELSI+”. We identified clusters of relevant concepts that focus on patient perspectives (preferences, experiences, quality of life, function), burden and harm, fairness (individual and societal), and organizational issues. Basing ELSI+ on conceptual consonance, rather than academic disciplines or traditions, provides a framework for coherent consideration of ELSI+ in HTA.
Very few practical frameworks exist to guide the formulation of recommendations at hospital-based health technology assessment (HTA) units. The objectives of our study were: (i) to identify decision criteria specific to the context of hospital-based health technologies and interventions, (ii) to estimate the extent to which the expert community agrees on the importance of the identified criteria, (iii) to incorporate the identified criteria into a decision-aid tool, and (iv) to illustrate the application of a prototype decision-aid tool.
Relevant decision criteria were identified using existing frameworks for HTA recommendations, our past experience, a literature search, and feedback from a survey of diverse stakeholders.
Based on the survey results, twenty-three decision criteria were incorporated into the final framework. We defined an approach that eschewed a scoring system, but instead relied on a visual means for arriving at a final recommendation, by juxtaposing the importance rating for each criterion against the results of the health technology assessment. For a technology to be approved, a majority of criteria considered important should also have received favorable findings.
We created a simple and practical decision-aid tool that incorporates all decision criteria relevant to a hospital-based HTA unit. With its ease of use and accessibility, our tool renders the subjective decision-making process more structured and transparent.
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