Health Technology Assessment (HTA) is a systematic, transparent and unbiased process of summarizing relevant information on the different aspects of health technology to inform the policy decisions. While efficacy and safety are always at the forefront when evaluating any treatment method in healthcare setting, HTA synthesizes this information with economic and organisational aspects resulting in evidence-based information on cost-effectiveness and budget impact. Thus, HTA supports safe, effective, and patient-centered health policies that seek to achieve best value for limited resources.
In 2011, for the first time, the Ministry of Social Affairs commissioned the University of Tartu to evaluate the cost–effectiveness of specific treatment modalities, namely that of three vaccination schemes: for rotavirus, Streptococcus pneumoniae (pneumococcus) and human papillomavirus. The three reports were designed to support decisions whether to include any of these new vaccines in the national vaccination programme.
The Centre for Health Technology Assessment was established in 2012 as part of the Department of Public Health at the University of Tartu, with a staff of 8–10 young research fellows who have master degrees in public health, economics or mathematical statistics. The Centre was funded in 2012-2015 by the European Regional Development Fund via TerVE programme implemented by the Estonian Research Council. Main activities in 2012-2015 were related to the capacity building and development of HTA methodology relevant for Estonian healthcare setting. The Centre has so far completed 16 HTA reports with several reports still in production. Since July 2015, the Centre will continue its work on HTA-s with the financial support from Ministry of Social Affairs.
The results of HTA are used by the Estonian Health Insurance Fund to make health care policy decisions about adding new diagnostic and treatment options to the list of health care services, and by the Ministry of Social Affairs to make decisions on the reimbursement of pharmaceuticals and on public health interventions. The recommendations and conclusions arising from HTA assist decisions to adjust the medical practices and clinical guidelines according to emerging evidence on efficacy and safety, and economic use of resources.