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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.
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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