3. Cost containment
In some cases, healthcare decision-makers see HTA as a means to contain costs. However, an HTA body focused only on cost containment is likely to face significant difficulties in arriving at recommendations acceptable for all stakeholders. While the costs of a technology are almost always part of HTA deliberations, focussing only on assessing costs neglects considering the possible benefits of a health technology – in particular, the effects in improving health and healthcare-system functioning.
Health technologies with no identifiable health benefits are easy to dismiss, with or without HTA. For the vast majority of technologies, however, incremental health benefits come with costs to individuals or the healthcare system, and potential implications for resource allocation by individuals and by societies. It should be considered that health improvements may not yield reductions in expenditures within the healthcare system. However, this needs to be put in perspective to possible cost reductions in other segments of societal expenditures (e.g. reduced disability payments, social security). Very difficult decisions need to be made about how to spend a finite health budget, bearing in mind long-term implications for societal health benefits.