Australian Government - Department of Health

Health Technology Assessment

About Health Technology Assessment

What is a Health Technology Assessment

A Health Technology Assessment (HTA) involves a range of processes and mechanisms that use scientific evidence to assess the quality, safety, efficacy, effectiveness and cost effectiveness of health services.

The Government assists Australians in accessing necessary health services and technologies by subsidising the cost of health-related goods and services. A range of different funding arrangements, including public subsidy, is used through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and through private health insurance reimbursement of devices, such as cardiac pacemakers and defibrillators, through the Prostheses List.

The HTA process plays a vital role in ensuring the Australian Governments’ objective of delivering a safe, effective and efficient health care system.

The purpose of HTA is to provide policy-makers, funders, health professionals and health consumers with the necessary information to understand the benefits and comparative value of health technologies and procedures. This information is then used to inform policy, funding and clinical decisions, and assist with consumer decision-making.

The Australian Government cannot financially support every new health technology that comes onto the market, so it aims to direct government funding, in the form of subsidies, to health technologies that are both clinically relevant, cost effective and safe.
HTA processes and mechanisms provide a means by which new technologies can be assured and prioritised against existing health care interventions. A HTA is commonly applied to pharmaceuticals (including vaccines), diagnostic tests, medical devices, surgically implanted prostheses, medical procedures and public health interventions.

The key questions that a HTA aims to answer for each new health technology, in comparison to alternative interventions, are:
  • Is it safe?
  • Does it improve health outcomes?
  • Is it cost effective?
Effective assessment of health technologies includes:
  • evaluating the comparative harms and benefits, using clinical evidence of patient safety, efficacy and clinical effectiveness; and
  • understanding the cause, origin and prevalence of disease and knowledge of best practice treatment pathways.
A well-performing HTA system will:
  • facilitate patient access to cost-effective health technologies that improve health outcomes;
  • minimise the use of technologies that are ineffective or harmful;
  • contribute to value for money investments in health technology in the context of limited health care resources;
  • keep pace with evolving technologies, clinical practices and HTA methodologies;
  • provide clear information on processes, rules and outcomes to stakeholders; and
  • ensure the system is designed to achieve these outcomes in the most timely, effective, efficient and targeted way.

Page currency, Latest update: 27 February, 2017