Press Release

Statement by Minister Mary Harney, T.D. on opening the 7th Annual Conference of the Health Technology Assessment International organisation.

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney, T.D. this morning (7th June) formally opened the 7th annual conference of theHealth Technology Assessment International organisation.

The conference is hosted in Dublin by the Health Information and Quality Authority, the Irish statutory body which a carries out heath technology assessments for our health services.

Opening the Conference, the Minister said, “I am delighted to welcome delegates from over 50 countries to Ireland for this conference dealing with the critical role of evidence and value for money in health care.

“Every country faces the challenge of ensuring that its scarce resources deliver the best outcomes for patients in health. This is what Health Technology Assessment is fundamentally about. It’s not just a task for times when countries are under budgetary pressures. It is vital to build sustainable health services that apply resources to ensure that money follows patients’ best health – best outcomes from interventions and best health status for the population in general.

“It is clear that when budgets are tighter, the importance of HTA is all the more visible. HTA can also help us find the most cost-effective way of delivering a new health service – in Ireland’s case, the delivery of the new cervical cancer vaccination programme was a case in point.

“It’s absolutely clear to me that clinical leadership and a commitment to public communications and education are essential, as health technology assessments take a more prominent role. The task of delivering new health interventions in the most cost-effective way and also, I would emphasise, changing the way we deliver existing services to be more cost effective – to do more with less – are not just matters for technical financial analysis. To move beyond analysis to implementation, they need leadership by clinicians and HTA practitioners among their peers, among their health care colleagues at all levels, and crucially, among patients and the public.

“There is increasing clinical leadership in Ireland now on these wider issues – I want to encourage more.

“HTA is about assessing how to use resources in the best interest of patients. As such, it is a matter of intense interest to patients. Just as patients place a high degree of trust in individual clinicians and in teams of clinicians, so also will they be placing a high degree of trust in the outcomes of HTAs.

“In the 21st century in healthcare, as in many other spheres, trust is earned, not owed. Patients and the public in general will place their trust in health technology assessments based on openness, integrity and evidence used in making these assessments. That’s why clear communications of every aspect of the HTA programme is vital. “

“I hope clinicians and leaders in healthcare in Ireland and elsewhere will fully engage with Health Technology Assessments and with the public in leading their understanding and earning their trust in evidence-based medicine and evidence based allocation of resources.

“This is the era of standards and evidence-based, best practice medicine. We have made a strong start in Ireland. HIQA is proving its worth and is earning the public trust. It is visibly and objectively enforcing standards in nursing homes, for example.

“As we move to licensing hospitals – which is very high on my agenda – the integrity and quality by which we set and enforce standards will be a key to public trust in our health services.

“Alongside that, the basis on which we allocate resources for patients’ best health will also be more transparent and evidence-based.

“This is the basis for enduring public confidence in our health services. We build on the traditional doctor-patient relationship. We set and enforce standards of care. We transparently and objectively assess the value of new technologies and interventions. And we create a clear basis for allocatinng scarce resources for patients’ best health.

“There will be choices to be made, as ever, and some will no doubt be controversial, but with strong leadership, collaborative relationships and integrity in decision-making processes, I am confident public trust and will indeed be earned in our health services.”