In many countries of the Western world, the role of health technology assessment (HTA) in funding decisions of medical technologies is increasing. HTAs are expected to support decision-makers in delineating the collectively funded benefits package. To maximize their potential, it is essential that assessments are valid, reliable and timely, and that it is transparent how information provided in assessments is used in decision-making. Against this background, this article aims to review the current state of affairs regarding the use of HTA in the area of medical specialist care in The Netherlands and to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of the HTA-based system for priority setting. The reason to do so was the introduction of a new hospital financing system in The Netherlands, which allowed for expansion of the HTA system that already existed for pharmaceuticals to medical specialist care. A comprehensive account of the HTA system for medical specialist care was created using the so-called Hutton framework, followed by an exploration of its strengths and weaknesses. An important lesson to be learned from the early Dutch experiences with HTA in the area of medical specialist care is that the nature and complexity of health technologies in this area create practical problems regarding the amount and quality of available data needed to make the HTA-based system work. This hampers an unambiguous interpretation of assessment data and thus calls for stronger requirements regarding transparency and stakeholder participation. Future work focusing on the role of HTA in funding decisions is needed to provide insights in best practices for HTA systems in circumstances where a delicate balance needs to be achieved between promoting innovation, supporting effective and timely decision-making and preventing the coverage of technologies that represent a waste of resources.

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Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research
Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM)

Stolk, E., de Bont, A., van Halteren, A., Bijlmer, R., & Poley, M. (2009). Role of health technology assessment in shaping the benefits package in the Netherlands. Expert Review of Pharmacoeconomics & Outcomes Research (Vol. 9, pp. 85–94). doi:10.1586/14737167.9.1.85