President's Blog

President’s Blog: May 2020

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Challenges bring opportunities. Time for action, time for HTA.

Dear highly-appreciated HTAi members and colleagues,

First of all, I hope you and yours are all safe and well and are following the guidelines to keep safe. This is not only important for you and yours, but also for our neighbours and our communities, in general.

This is my first contribution to this blog in which I am thinking about adding new input as required or at least once every two months. My first piece was supposed to be scheduled in January, but several conversations with HTAi meeting organizers and the International Scientific Program Committee for Beijing, China 2020 and our local hosts and other commitments concerning the pandemic have delayed it. However, as I mentioned in my opening discourse, HTAi belongs to its members and is run by its members and those that have needed something, have always found my door open.

Since I started my term in the Presidency, 9 months ago, the world has seen some huge changes. We would never have imagined most countries in the world under lock down measures and wondering what is going to happen in the near future. However, I’m amazed by the continued dedication and engagement from the HTAi members during this time and see a renewed enthusiasm and strong resolve to continue to make sure that we collaborate internationally. HTA is becoming more necessary than ever and we are the only clear point of reference for that. The world needs evidence to make proper decisions and this is what HTA is all about.

During this period, we have been very active, the new definition of HTA has been published in a joint action coordinated by HTAi and INAHTA, and reviewed and endorsed by several organizations in the HTA field, including regional networks and international societies and networks. This is a new hit as it will be jointly published in HTAi’s IJTAHC and ISPOR’s Value in Health journals. We have finalized and framed the new strategic plan concentrating on Regions, Quality, Partners and Members.

Our Board is tremendously skilled and committed. This is a group I am proud to belong to and which has given me the chance to coordinate between the Secretariat and members. In the last period, we have created and/or reinforced the role of committees in increasing quality and capacity, business development and performance; apart from those already strongly affecting the activities of the society, such as the Policy Forum or the Annual Meeting Committees. The members of the Board are involved and chairing those committees in which other members of the society contribute. Moreover, our Interest Groups (IGs) and our Interest Groups’ Committee, the heart of the society, have renewed the Terms of Reference to enhance and support IGs’ activities. IGs are more active than ever, with new papers produced, new projects in their portfolio of activities and with a clear vision of how to impact   overall production, contribution to members and knowledge. There will also be a clear mission to publish all the initiatives in the Society’s Journal IJTAHC.

In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight that IJTAHC, the society journal, is growing in strength. The time to publication is impressive and the society is extremely proud of the new editorial board members and a host of fantastic associate editors. In particular, Issue 6 of 2019, a themed issue, regarding HTA flourishing in Asia, is particularly impressive and I would encourage all members to take the time to explore this issue. Also, the impact factor is improving in accordance to those aforementioned changes.

The last meeting in Cologne was a tremendous success with 1,200 delegates from 75 countries. The Annual Meetings continue to be the flagship event for our organizational and individual members, since the society was founded in 2003, and indeed before that with all the preceding ISTAHC meetings. It is with tremendous regret and sadness that for reasons outside our control, we will not be able to gather as usual in June, in Beijing. Notwithstanding, we should take this as an opportunity to be closer to members by exploring new initiatives, ways of presenting scientific contributions and encouraging discussions. This was part of my ambition when I became a member of the Board, by going digital and offering more services to members. Now, this will be mandatory and we will see how we surf this tremendous wave we have ahead.

In collaboration with the Board of Directors, the Secretariat and all our invaluable members, we are committed to our renewed vision of continuing to be the leading global society for all stakeholders engaged in the production and use of HTA in decision-making as we all work within the new ‘normal’ – in short, we’re going virtual, stay tuned! We will be supporting member collaborations by running virtual symposia sessions, providing a space for HTAi members to share materials and also project group output in the future.

As we respond to the challenges that 2020 has given us, I am even more convinced that our Strategic Plan for 2020-2025, approved by the Board of Directors in January in New Orleans in its ordinary meeting, is well placed to guide all our activities and decisions. You can find the full plan here. Hopefully, we will have you on board and we will make the society stronger. For the next five years, we have four key areas of focus: Membership, Partnership, Scientific Capacity Development and Financial Stability and Good Governance. In the coming months, our focus is on merit and providing membership support through virtual programming.

Regarding the pandemic, we stay tuned and well connected with international activities. We have formed a COVID-19 HTA Response Team to oversee ongoing collaborations and initiatives as we respond to the global crisis and work together to ensure that HTA is at the forefront of decision making. This work is closely aligned as we collaborate as a non-state actor in official relations with the WHO and other partnerships within the global evidence network, as well as collaborating on medical devices. Among those institutions we can mention are well-recognized universities, national organizations, and international organizations, including McMaster University, Cochrane Collaboration, Imperial College of London, ISPOR, EuroScan, NIPHNO and more.

I am proud to say that we have signed our official MOU with HTAsiaLink. We look forward to information sharing, and the future opportunities and learning that this will bring all members both within the region and internationally. We are delighted that the Asia Policy Forum, held in Hanoi in November 2019, was a tremendous success, the newsletter from the meeting is available here. This is not a mere flash in the pan, but it will flourish into many other upcoming activities. Unfortunately, we had to defer the LATAM Policy Forum that was scheduled to be held the last week of April in Brasília. Nevertheless, we will continue to support this and other Regional initiatives in Latin America, Eastern Europe (we have also had to postpone the Ukraine meeting), Asia/Pacific and Africa. We have started conversations with different organizations in the Middle East and North Africa to promote HTA among the countries in that region. More news will come shortly.

Finally, I do not want to close this long contribution without thanking our Local Hosts in Beijing, the International Scientific Program Committee and our Secretariat. It has been a long time since we started thinking about organizing something big and successful in China. Many years ago, one of our past Presidents, Clifford Goodman, visited China to explore the willingness to promote HTA activities there. Since then, we have contributed extensively to the creation and sustainment of HTA in China. International HTAi members have participated in different HTA conferences and workshops in Shanghai and Beijing, and the society organized an Asia Policy Forum in China. It has been a pity that we will not be able to contribute in the best way possible, which is by holding the HTAi Annual Meeting in 2020 in Beijing. However, we will do it virtually and we have ensured our local hosts that HTAi will continue supporting and promoting HTA in the region and especially in China through different activities and initiatives and that this is a long-standing relationship which needs to be defined in joint activities.

Please keep safe, you are an asset to the society and your countries need you to take the best decisions and give the best guidance in these troubled times.

Let’s take this as an opportunity, and not as a risk from the Chinese word 危機 that combines two words: risk and opportunity. In reality, this is an opportunity to get back to the basics and the roots of HTA in which the question we need to resolve is crucial in order to provide the best available evidence to answer it.

Thanks to all for your continuous support, more to come.

Dr. Iñaki Gutiérrez-Ibarluzea
HTAi President
Director, Organizational and Managerial Innovation, Basque Foundation for Health Innovation and Research