An Introduction to Health Technology

This presentation aims to help you understand what is health technology. It discusses the assessment process of different health technologies for them to become funded by the Australian Government, and how you can provide feedback for medicines, medical services and products.


Welcome to this short presentation.

The information presented here aims to help you understand the assessment process, medicines and medical services, and products go through to be funded by the Australian Government.

This process is known as health technology assessment or HTA. For this presentation the abbreviation HTA has been used.

Items approved for funding become available on programs such as the pharmaceutical benefits scheme or PBS, the Medicare benefits schedule, known as Medicare, or on other programs such as the Prosthesis List.

It will take you about 10 to 15 minutes to listen to this presentation. 

You can pause the presentation at any time if you want to spend longer looking at the information on the slide by clicking on the pause button. This presentation is also available as a PDF on the office of HTA’s consultation hub website. The links shown in the presentation can only be accessed via this PDF.

The information presented here is in short sections to explain what health technologies are, describe the HTA process, explain how and when consumer views are collected within HTA now, and find out where you can learn more about this process.

Section 1 will explain what is meant by the term ‘health technologies’. Each and every day millions of people use Health technologies within the health system. These might be used to screen, diagnose, treat, cure or prevent illness.

Health technologies may be a pill, a medicine, given intravenously via a drip, a device to measure measure blood sugar, or a vaccine to prevent an illness like tetanus or COVID. Other examples could be specialised treatment focused on cancer cells or gene markings, screening for breast cancer with a mammogram, diagnosing an illness with ultrasound, CT scan, or special blood test.

There are many many more, and they are all called health technologies.

So how does the government know which health technology it should approve and fund?

The Australian Government wants to make sure that medicines and medical services, or what we call health technologies, that really benefit patients are available, accessible, and afforded for everybody that needs them.

HTA helps with those decisions and it is like the way we make decisions in our own lives. 

Think about the decision to buy a new car. You would expect that any car being sold should work and be safe. You may be deciding between two cars. Both work and both are safe, but one is more fuel efficient and has other additional features. If you want these extra features you will need to pay more for that car.

The same thing happens in healthcare. 

To be sold medicines and medical services and products need to be safe. If these are to be funded by the government, they also need to be effective and have value for money.

For example, the government might pay extra for a technology that extends someone's life, or for a treatment that allows the person to be treated at home rather than in hospital.

The government can make better decisions about what really benefits people when people like yourself who want to use these health items say why they are useful or not.

That information from you helps the government decide which medicines and medical services it will make available on programs such as the PBS, Medicare, or the Prosthesis List.

So what is meant by your views and experience? 

Whether you are a patient, carer, health professional or a representative of a consumer group, you will have your own unique perspective on how a particular medicine or medical service has either been used by you or someone you are caring for, treating, or advocating for, or might be used by someone to provide a health benefit.

This includes information on living with a particular illness and what life is like before or after receiving the medicine or medical service or product.

These may be good things the benefits or the not so good things, the negative effects that are experienced, you may also want to point out practical issues such as how easy it is to get the particular medicine or to use a particular device. This helps the government understand how a medicine service or product might be better for patients compared to the current options.

The next section will describe the HTA process. 

The government wants the public to have safe effective healthcare technologies. To do this it needs to be certain that a health technology is safe, effective, and provides value for money so they are affordable and can be used by any Australian who may need it. 

But with so many health needs and a limited budget, the government needs to think about which health technologies it will fund.

Australians benefit from HTA because they ensure taxpayers’ money supports safe, effective health care improvements.

Before they become available to the public, health technology items are assessed by the government via 2 main processes. 

The first process looks at whether a health technology is safe and effective. In other words, it does what it says it can do.

The second process considers whether a health technology can be funded by the Australian Government. The assessments within these 2 processes are done by different regulatory and advisory groups.

The first process is what can be sold.

This happens when a company makes an application for its health technology product to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, called the TGA for short. The TGA is a regulatory body that has a process to check that the product is safe, performs, as expected and meets a range of national and international standards. If a product passes these assessment, it is said to have ‘market authorisation’.

The second process is about what should be funded or subsidised as it is often referred to. 

The government has set up independent committees to assess whether a health technology will benefit patients and the health system when compared to what is already available.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, the PBAC, or the medical services advisory committee, MSAC, are examples of these committees.

If these committees find that a health technology has benefit, that is, it is effective and provides value for money, they will advise the government that a particular health technology should be considered for funding.

The government then makes the decision as to whether the product will be partially or fully funded via a program such as the PBS or Medicare.

There are multiple steps in the HTA process which usually takes many months to complete. This diagram shows the path of the process we've just looked at. A health technology often starts out in research. 

When it has been developed through clinical trials, the product’s company applies to the TGA to seek approval to be sold in Australia. If the TGA gives approval for this the company can apply to the to be assessed by the committee to seek the government's funding of the product.

When the assessment is finished, the committee tells the government its recommendation. The government then makes the final decision on whether to fund or subsidise the health technology.

Companies whose health technology products are not recommended for funding, receive feedback on this and have the option to reapply in the future.

Section 3 will discuss how and where consumer views are collected now.

Consumer views on a particular health technology being assessed for government funding are mainly collected by an online survey which can be accessed on the Office of Health Technology's consultation hub website.

They're also collected by the consumer right in their views and uploading it onto the survey, or by sending an email to the committees. These views are then provided to the HTA committee that is assessing the particular health technology.

Sometimes, people are giving information about an application for funding. At other times, mainly for medicines, applications are not able to be shared due to commercial reasons.

Consumer representatives may also be asked to provide their views and experience in person to a committee.

Currently, consumer input most commonly occurs after a funding application has been made by the company of a health technology. This diagram shows when this happens within the current HTA process.

There are other opportunities for consumer views to be presented, which may include meetings with the committees’ consumer representatives shortly before or after the committee advice has been published.

Section 4 talks about where you can learn more about the HTA process and contributing consumer views.

To learn more about the HTA process, visit the HTA section on the Department of Health and Aged Care website. To learn more about contributing consumer views to the HTA process, visit the office of HTA's consultation Hub website, or you can also email the consumer evidence and engagement unit with any questions you may have. You might also like to contact a consumer organisational support group that is involved in your particular health interest.

This is the end of the presentation to help you understand the HTA process and where consumer views can be contributed.

You can re-read and listen to this presentation as many times as you need or would like to. This presentation is also available as a PDF on the office of HTA's consultation hub website.

The link shown in the presentation can only be accessed via that PDF. Thank you for your interest in Australia's health technology assessment process.

Thank you.

Video type:
Publication date:
Date last updated:

Help us improve

If you would like a response please use the enquiries form instead.