Dissemination of Health Technology Assessments: Identifying the Visions Guiding an Evolving Policy Innovation in Canada
Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law 2005 August; 30(4): 603-641
Health technology assessment (HTA) has received increasing support over the past twenty years in both North America and Europe. The justification for this field of policy-oriented research is that evidence about the efficacy, safety, and cost-effectiveness of technology should contribute to decision and policy making. However, concerns about the ability of HTA producers to increase the use of their findings by decision makers have been expressed. Although HTA practitioners have recognized that dissemination activities need to be intensified, why and how particular approaches should be adopted is still under debate. Using an institutional theory perspective, this article examines HTA as a means of implementing knowledge-based change within health care systems. It presents the results of a case study on the dissemination strategies of six Canadian HTA agencies. Chief executive officers and executives (n = 11), evaluators (n = 19), and communications staff (n = 10) from these agencies were interviewed. Our results indicate that the target audience of HTA is frequently limited to policy makers, that three conflicting visions of HTA dissemination coexist, that active dissemination strategies have only occasionally been applied, and that little attention has been paid to the management of diverging views about the value of health technology. Our discussion explores the strengths, limitations, and trade-offs associated with the three visions. Further efforts should be deployed within agencies to better articulate a shared vision and to devise dissemination strategies that are consistent with this vision.
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