Eliciting ethical and social values in health technology assessment: A participatory approach
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Despite a growing consensus that ethical and social values should be addressed in health technology assessment (HTA) processes, there exist a variety of methods for doing so. There is growing interest in involving citizens in policy development to ensure that decisions are legitimate, and reflect the broad social values of the public. We sought to bring these issues together by employing a participatory approach to elicit ethical and social values in HTA. Our primary objective was to elicit a set of ethical and social values from citizens that could be used to guide Ontario's HTA evidentiary review and appraisal process. A secondary objective was to explore the feasibility of using participatory approaches to elicit these values. A 14-person Citizens' Reference Panel on Health Technologies was established to provide input to the Ontario Health Technology Advisory Committee in developing its recommendations. A mixed methods approach was used where informed, deliberative discussions were combined with pre- and post-questionnaires, which assessed the relative importance of various ethical and social values as well as their stability over time. Over the course of five meetings, panel members progressed toward the identification of a set of core values -universal access, choice and quality care. These values were consistently prioritized as the core values that should be considered in the evaluation of health technologies and ensuing recommendations. Sustained and deliberative methods, like a citizens' panel, offer a promising approach for eliciting ethical and social values into HTA.
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