A “safe space” to address the complex challenges of health technology assessment | Blog | New

By Nick Crabb

Innovative drugs, medical devices and diagnostics are arriving at an unprecedented rate.

At NICE, it is our duty to anticipate these developments to guarantee patients rapid access to the most promising cutting-edge treatments. So we are taking a number of steps to address this. These include developing a proportionate approach to technology assessments to increase our capacity. We are also developing a new collaborative space for research and development – ​​called the Health Technology Assessment Innovation Lab (HTA Lab).

Using collaborative and innovative approaches, the HTA Lab will allow us to work with our stakeholders to develop solutions to complex HTA issues – disruptive new health technologies and broader questions of methods, processes and policies. It will help find solutions to current and future health challenges, taking innovation from the lab to practice.

Introducing the sandbox – a “safe space” to develop solutions

The HTA lab will use a “sandbox” approach to develop solutions to complex HTA issues. The sandbox concept was first launched in the financial industry as a way to provide a safe space for businesses to push boundaries and innovate new products and ways of working. As such, they can explore approaches that may not match existing practice, but have the potential to bring significant benefits if adopted as standard practice.

Through the European Horizon 2020 HTx project, NICE has already made a major contribution to the application of a “sandbox” approach to the ETS, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders. We will apply this experience to the HTA Lab – using the sandbox as a development and testing environment that allows us to collaborate with our stakeholders to test new methods, processes and policies.

I would note that HTA Lab does not replace formal NICE provisions for adopting new methods and processes. It offers a new way to harness the ideas and creativity of our stakeholder community to solve complex HTA problems.

Getting started – a framework for quick access to managed access

The first project that the HTA Lab will undertake is the development and piloting of a managed access rapid access framework. Our goal is to develop efficient and timely processes before suitable products enter managed access agreements. This will help provide patients with access to important and financially viable medicines while evidence of their effectiveness is still emerging. When developing the framework, we will need to consider how it successfully interacts with the Cancer Drugs Fund and the Innovative Medicines Fund.

The HTA Lab presents an exciting opportunity for NICE and our stakeholder community. Through a process of co-creation, it will help us produce useful and usable solutions to complex HTA problems, enabling access to treatments that offer the greatest benefits for patients.


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