Because great interest in an efficient range of effective medicinal innovations and achievements has arisen, many countries have introduced procedures to regulate the adoption of innovative non-medicinal technologies into the benefit catalogue of solidly financed health care insurances. With this as a background, this report will describe procedures for the adoption of innovative non-medicinal technologies by solidly financed health care insurances in Germany, England, Australia and Switzerland. This report was commissioned by the German Agency for Health Technology Assessment at the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information.
In order to find the relevant literature and information, systematic literature research, a hand search and a written survey were carried out. All the selected documents (chosen according to defined criteria for inclusion and exclusion) were qualitatively evaluated, summarized and presented on a chart using a framework developed for this purpose.
All the countries in this report require that some innovative non-medicinal technologies undergo evaluation by a central governing body. This evaluation is a prerequisite for adoption into the benefit catalogue. The process of evaluation can differ (e. g. the people and institutions concerned, the division of the synthesis of evidence and overall evaluation, processing the evidence). Similarities do exist, such as the size and composition of the governing bodies or the overreaching criteria according to which institutions must make their recommendations. This is how all the countries examined in this report determine how the benefits and effectiveness of the innovations, as well as their cost-effectiveness, can be chosen as criteria for the evaluation.
Furthermore, there are many criteria which differ from country to country (social and ethical aspects, possible effects on the health system, etc.) and which are also relevant to an evaluation. The preferred types of clinical studies for these evaluations are randomized controlled trials. However, all institutions do allow for other types of evidence (e. g. expert opinion) when no other study types of a higher evidence level are available. In addition, all the countries are willing to allow unpublished or confidential information (e. g. from manufacturers) to be included in an evaluation.
It is important to remember that the decisions made by the central governing bodies do not necessarily become conditions for the introduction of innovative non-medicinal technologies. There is a host of other requirements which determine how these innovations can be introduced. This means that a large number of non-medicinal technologies make it into the medical care system via these other decision-making processes. Often, these innovations are unevaluated and differ from region to region.
Every country has established a system of observation and registration for medicinal products. These systems are meant to document any incidents with the innovations and to confer responsibility on certain organizations. All in all, no country has a central authority which systematically investigates the effects of newly introduced innovative non-medicinal technologies on medical care in general. However, Australia and England both carry out a review of innovations in some areas (e. g. by means of special commissions).
In principle, the starting point for improving regulations of innovative non-medicinal technologies lies in the extension of transparency, the shortening of decision-making time (especially the central decision-making processes), the further development of evaluation methods, more flexibility and increased capacity in the governing bodies’ decision-making processes and also, if needed, in the creation of a single authority to act as contact for people who are interested in introducing an innovation into the benefit catalogue.
More research is required, especially in the area of decentralized decision-makers and how they actually decide whether or not to introduce innovative technologies into the core care system (methods, criteria, etc.). In view of this, it would also be interesting to see how the application of innovations actually happens in practice once their adoption has been approved by the corresponding governing bodies.