There is increasing emphasis on providing patient-focused health care and ensuring patient involvement in the design of health services. As health technology assessment (HTA) is meant to be a multidisciplinary, wide-ranging policy analysis that informs decision making, it would be expected that patients’ views should be incorporated into the assessment. However, HTA is still driven by collection of quantitative evidence to determine the clinical and cost effectiveness of a health technology. Patients’ perspectives about their illness and the technology are rarely included, perhaps because they are seen as anecdotal, biased views. There are two distinct but complementary ways in which HTAs can be strengthened by: (i) gathering robust evidence about the patients’ perspectives, and (ii) ensuring effective engagement of patients in the HTA process from scoping, through evidence gathering, assessment of value, development of recommendations and dissemination of findings. Robust evidence eliciting patients’ perspectives can be obtained through social science research that is well conducted, critically appraised and carefully reported, either through meta-synthesis of existing studies or new primary research. Engagement with patients can occur at several levels and we propose that HTA should seek to support effective patient participation to create a fair deliberative process. This should allow two-way flow of information, so that the views of patients are obtained in a supportive way and fed into decision-making processes in a transparent manner.
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