The Public: How Can it Contribute to an Understanding of and Decisions About the Value of a New Health Technology?

Breakfast Session 7

Presenters: Dr. Devidas Menon, Professor, School of Public Health, University of Alberta; Dr. Jackie Street, Professor, University of Adelaide; Dr. Tania Stafinski, Director, Health Technology and Policy Unit, University of Alberta; and Ken Bond, Director of Patient Engagement, Ethics, and International Affairs, CADTH

In an attempt to capture what the full benefits and harms associated with new health technologies are, health technology assessment (HTA) organizations have instituted mechanisms to involve patients in their assessment and review processes. The reasons for this are clear: the need to understand “the patient experience” with their disease and ensure the patient voice has some influence on deliberations about the value of new treatments. More recently, there have been efforts to engage “the public” in HTA and HTA-informed decision-making processes. However, the goals of existing or proposed efforts to do this have not been clearly articulated. This may be attributable, in part, to the lack of a shared definition of “the public.” In many HTA processes, the terms “the public” and “patients” are synonymous. Therefore, who should comprise “the public”? It could be argued that the answer depends on understanding what is missing from current deliberations around the value of new health technologies. In this interactive session, we plan to:

  • present and discuss the various definitions of “the public” used by HTA organizations around the world
  • present and discuss what is known about the rationale for public involvement in those HTA organizations
  • explore, with session participants, whether a common understanding of the public’s role (e.g., whether they have a role and, if so, what it would achieve) is possible, or even necessary, appropriate, or legitimate in decisions on health resource allocation.