Objectives: This study sought to identify and compare various practical and current approaches of health technology assessment (HTA) priority setting.
Methods: A literature search was performed across PubMed, MEDLINE, EMBASE, BIOSIS, and Cochrane. Given an earlier review conducted by European agencies (EUR-ASSESS project), the search was limited to literature indexed from 1996 onward. We also searched Web sites of HTA agencies as well as HTAi and ISTAHC conference abstracts. Agency representatives were contacted for information about their priority-setting processes. Reports on practical approaches selected through these sources were identified independently by two reviewers.
Results: A total of twelve current priority-setting frameworks from eleven agencies were identified. Ten countries were represented: Canada, Denmark, England, Hungary, Israel, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, and United States. Fifty-nine unique HTA priority-setting criteria were divided into eleven categories (alternatives; budget impact; clinical impact; controversial nature of proposed technology; disease burden; economic impact; ethical, legal, or psychosocial implications; evidence; interest; timeliness of review; variation in rates of use). Differences across HTA agencies were found regarding procedures for categorizing, scoring, and weighing of policy criteria.
Conclusions: Variability exists in the methods for priority setting of health technology assessment across HTA agencies. Quantitative rating methods and consideration of cost benefit for priority setting were seldom used. These study results will assist HTA agencies that are re-visiting or developing their prioritization methods.