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On 29 November, Health First Europe attended the lunch debate on “Health Technology Assessment: improving patient care and value for money?” at the Residence Palace in Brussels. The event was organised by European Voice and supported by companies such as Eucomed and Novartis. The debate aimed to understand how and why Health Technology Assessment (HTA) processes and governance has to be improved through increased stakeholder cooperation and involvement in the process itself. The event brought together a large panel of speakers from the European Parliament, the European Commission and others stakeholders involved in HTA issues to give a concrete overview for pan-European cooperation on HTA in the medical sector.

Anders-Lamark Tysse, Policy Officer for Healthcare Systems at the European Commission’s Directorate General Consumers and Health, expressed that HTA remains a key issue in European healthcare systems for one main reason: HTA provides more clarity and better understanding on patient safety through the implementation of non-regulatory and regulatory requirements (according to an evidence based approach) for medical technology devices.

There are 27 HTA processes and governance across Europe and this represents a considerable challenge for all stakeholders. According to Joana Gabriele, Executive Director of the Spanish Patients Forum, the impact of HTA can be faced only if stakeholders (e.g. policy-makers, companies and patients) are adequately involved in the process.

MEP Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, Bulgaria) continued the debate by insisting on the fact that HTA must consider e-health, the current financial crisis (including budget reductions) as well as an ageing population issues. As regards the different demands in the healthcare system, HTA follows a dual-line perspective:  quality of care for patients and a better use of money by the Member States. Ms. Parvanova suggested that EU Member States are faced with considerable challenges for healthcare systems and solutions, including volunteering networks and collaboration partnerships, have to be created by the Member States with the support of the European Union (such as through the EUnetHTA Network). As reminder, MEP Parvanova concluded that the European Parliament is ready to prepare a question or a resolution before an eventual proposal from the European Commission in this field.

Regarding both Joint Action 1 and 2 on HTA and the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive, Finn Børlum Kristensen (President of EUnetHTA), explained the necessity of an European collaboration on HTA processes and governance.  He expressed that, “As technologies become more “international” (medicines, medical devices) and patients become more European, there should be a decrease in duplication of HTA Assessments.”, However, Mr. Kristensen also pointed out that there is still a problem regarding  inconsistency between different national HTAs. In addition, the EUnetHTA Conference in Gdansk (Poland) on 8-9 December 2011 will look to bring together an important stakeholders panel in order to draw up a strategy discussion around the upcoming Joint Action on HTA.

Overall, the event highlighted the potential of HTA in the EU health sector emphasising the importance of quality of care for patients and cost-effectiveness for public authorities in the ongoing debates. All participants agreed that the support of Member states and increased involvement of stakeholders in HTA is vital in order for assessments to reflect the value of medical solutions in the health sector at both local and EU levels.