Objectives: Early awareness and alert (EAA) activities are increasingly recognized to be an important component of the health technology assessment (HTA) process. Sharing information on methods used in this discipline is vital to ensure the development of sustainable systems. The objectives of this study is to outline the approach taken to share the different methods that members of the EuroScan International Network use by producing a methods toolkit; and to provide an overview of the similarities and differences in methods adopted by EAA systems.
Methods: A Delphi technique was used to develop the methods toolkit. Structured questionnaires were used to identify the sources used in the identification of emerging technologies and to determine the methods used by agencies to carry out EAA activities.
Results: A methods toolkit incorporating guidance on all of the stages described by EuroScan members was produced. The toolkit and an accompanying checklist presents users with different methods that can be adopted to suit their needs. The comparative analysis demonstrates that different methods are being used by EAA systems dependent on resources available and customer requirements. Differences in identification, filtration, prioritization, and assessment are apparent along with the role of collaborators in these processes.
Conclusions: The methods used by EAA systems are not homogeneous resulting in a toolkit constructed on the basis of “one size doesn't fit all.” Methods in this discipline are developing continually to accommodate changes in health systems and the HTA world. Differences between agencies and the sharing of ideas and experiences enable EAA agencies to adapt to these developments.
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