Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Community views and perspectives on public engagement in health technology assessment decision making

Sally Wortley A C , Allison Tong A B and Kirsten Howard A

A Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia. Email: allison.tong@sydney.edu.au; kirsten.howard@sydney.edu.au

B Centre for Kidney Research, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Corner Hawkesbury and Hainsworth Streets, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email: sally.wortley@sydney.edu.au

Australian Health Review 41(1) 68-74 https://doi.org/10.1071/AH15221
Submitted: 20 November 2015  Accepted: 9 February 2016   Published: 7 April 2016

Abstract

Objectives The aim of the present study was to describe community views and perspectives on public engagement processes in Australian health technology assessment (HTA) decision making.

Methods Six focus groups were held in Sydney (NSW, Australia) as part of a broad program of work on public engagement and HTA. Eligible participants were aged ≥18 years and spoke English. Participants were asked about their views and perspectives of public engagement in the HTA decision-making process, with responses analysed using a public participation framework.

Results Fifty-eight participants aged 19–71 years attended the focus groups. Responses from the public indicated that they wanted public engagement in HTA to include a diversity of individuals, be independent and transparent, involve individuals early in the process and ensure that public input is meaningful and useful to the process. This was consistent with the public participation framework. Perceived shortcomings of the current public engagement process were also identified, namely the lack of awareness of the HTA system in the general population and the need to acknowledge the role different groups of stakeholders or ‘publics’ can have in the process.

Conclusions The public do see a role for themselves in the HTA decision-making process. This is distinct to the involvement of patients and carers. It is important that any future public engagement strategy in this field distinguishes between stakeholder groups and outline approaches that will involve members of the public in the decision-making process, especially if public expectations of involvement in healthcare decision-making continue to increase.

What is known about this topic? The views and perspectives of patients and consumers are important in the HTA decision-making process. There is a move to involve the broader community, particularly as decisions become increasingly complex and resources more scarce.

What does this paper add? It not been known to what extent, or at what points, the community would like to be engaged with the HTA decision-making process. The present study adds to the evidence base on this topic by identifying features of engagement that may be important in determining the extent of wider public involvement. It is clear that the community expects the system to be transparent, for patients to be involved early in specific processes and the wider community to be able to contribute to the broader vision of the healthcare system.

What are the implications for practitioners? A formalised strategy is needed to include the public voice into health technology decisions. With the current level of reform in the healthcare sector and the focus on creating a sustainable healthcare system, there is a real opportunity to implement an approach that not only informs patients and the community of the challenges, but includes and incorporates their views into these decisions. This will assist in developing and adapting policy that is relevant and meets the needs of the population.

Additional keywords: consumer preferences.


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