Objectives: The aim of this study was to describe the techniques used in achieving consensus on common standards to be implemented in the EUnetHTA Information Management System (IMS); and to describe how interoperability between tools was explored.
Methods: Three face to face meetings were organized to identify and agree on common standards to the development of online tools. Two tools were created to demonstrate the added value of implementing interoperability standards at local levels. Developers of tools outside EUnetHTA were identified and contacted.
Results: Four common standards have been agreed on by consensus; and consequently all EUnetHTA tools have been modified or designed accordingly. RDF Site Summary (RSS) has demonstrated a good potential to support rapid dissemination of HTA information. Contacts outside EUnetHTA resulted in direct collaboration (HTA glossary, HTAi Vortal), evaluation of options for interoperability between tools (CRD HTA database) or a formal framework to prepare cooperation on concrete projects (INAHTA projects database).
Conclusions: While being entitled a project on IT infrastructure, the work program was also about people. When having to agree on complex topics, fostering a cohesive group dynamic and hosting face to face meetings brings added value and enhances understanding between partners. The adoption of widespread standards enhanced the homogeneity of the EUnetHTA tools and should thus contribute to their wider use, therefore, to the general objective of EUnetHTA. The initiatives on interoperability of systems need to be developed further to support a general interoperable information system that could benefit the whole HTA community.
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