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View of health technology assessment from the swampy lowlands of general practice

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 April 2004

Iona Heath
Royal College of General Practitioners


This article seeks to comment on the approaches to health technology assessment (HTA) outlined in the four main country studies in this volume. It is written from the perspective of a general practitioner working in an inner city area in the United Kingdom and argues that, from the point of view of the clinician, HTA delivers considerably less than it promises. The problems center on the inevitability of judgment by both politicians and clinicians and the conflicting foundations of these judgments. Within political decision-making, the needs of the population inevitably outweigh the needs of the individual; within clinical decision making, the opposite is the case. Attempting a scientific rationality, HTA struggles with the impossibility of holding the balance between the two. These difficulties are further compounded by the implications of ever-increasing expectations of perfect health and the effects of multinational commercial pressures.

Research Article
© 2004 Cambridge University Press

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“Swampy lowlands” is a phrase taken from Schön DA. The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books; 1984.


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