President's Blog

President’s Blog: July 2020

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Boldly moving ahead with HTAi’s activities

Dear HTAi community,

As promised, I am back to inform members on what we have done, what we are planning to do and what is expected to be planned. I said 2 months and this period is enough to have sufficient content, to digest the previous one and to start being prepared for what we have ahead. Today is July 31st, 2020, Saint Ignatius of Loiola’s day, the Basque Founder of Jesuits’ company and from whom my first name comes. The reason why I have chosen to mention it is related to the commitment of the “company” to work on education, research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue. They are accustomed to receiving “orders” and to accepting them anywhere whichever the conditions are. There is a correlation between what the company promotes and what HTAi does. We work in education, research, being respectful of cultural heritages and engage to promote dialogue among our diverse membership. We receive orders from our members (our strategic plan) and accept them in difficult times and all over the world.

The first suggestion for this blog was HTAi’s “new normal”. Having in mind what the “new normal” could mean to us both professionally  and socially, I am reluctant to use a phrase that does not properly reflect the reality that all of our lives have dramatically changed in the last months. This does not mean that I feel pessimistic around the situation of the society, my country, or the world, quite the contrary, I think this is a good time to pause and take a breath. A good time to think profoundly on what has happened, why it has happened and to act accordingly. Perhaps it is the first time ever in which the world has stopped its frenetic run to climate’s disaster. Nature flourished during the months of lock down and showed us that we are not more than another animal in the world, but the only one with capacity to destroy the whole planet. Unfortunately, this stop was not a consequence of human consensus, but the misfortunate corollary of a virus mediated global pandemic.

The new HTA definition includes the environmental domain as part of HTA analysis demonstrating that the HTA community is conscious of its role in supporting decisions, the importance of the analysis of health technologies and their value from many different perspectives. What is more, HTA bodies around the world have started analyzing the consequences of single-use health technologies, non-environmentally friendly materials, the carbon-footprint of long-distance production or the need for recycling and recovery of materials, among others.

The past two months have seen a huge call upon the international health research and innovation community to respond to the pandemic. HTA and HTAi have risen to the challenge with admirable reserve, dedication, and pure hard work. For many countries, the burden and restrictions are lifting, meanwhile small outbreaks are arising far and wide, and in many others lock down measures remain in place. We should be proud of what we have achieved regionally, locally, and internationally, while recognizing the impacts are long term and there is still much to be done. During the urgency of the main outbreak, information was faint and confusing.  Now, we cannot permit by any means decisions that are not sustained on evidence and audited afterwards.

At this stage, I am grateful to the continued dedication and engagement from the HTAi members during these challenging times and see a renewed enthusiasm and strong resolve to make sure that international collaborations continue. Along with partners in other fields of knowledge and especially during the hardest peak of the pandemic, the HTA community engaged to contribute toward resolving problems as soon as it was possible. Bearing in mind that the world needs research, evidence, and analysis that support proper decisions, HTA’s role remains crucial.

I need also to report that there have been substantial organizational changes in our society during the last three months. On the one side, because of the ordinary renewal process and democratic elections the society has renewed the Board of Directors, four members of the Board have left us, three directors and one observer. We sincerely thank our directors and long-standing members Karen Facey, Hector Castro and Rabia Kahveci for their tireless contributions to the Board as outgoing directors and the contribution of Ying-Yao Chen as observer and liaison for Asia Pacific region. These members will continue to support the society in different roles.  In addition to Interest Group contributions, Karen will be part of the ISPC for Manchester 2021, Hector is the new appointed chair of the Latin American Policy Forum, Rabia is leading the organization of our next meeting in Ukraine and Ying-Yao has been one of our valued guests for HTAi meeting 2020 in Beijing. As a result of the elections, we enthusiastically welcome, Li Ying (Grace) Huang from Taiwan, Franz Waibel from Switzerland, and Vania Canuto from Brazil, our newly elected directors. They bring with them new competencies and motivation to the Board. The new members complement the current member skills and will provide renewed strengths to our society’s direction. We are proud that our Board represents all regions of the world and is gender balanced (6 women and 6 men).

On the other side of organizational changes, we need to inform that Daniel Lalonde, who has been directing the secretariat for the last three years, has left us to pursue other professional challenges. We thank him for the period he has served the society, his dedication and competence and we wish him the best in his professional and personal pursuits. We are working hard within the Board to restructure the secretariat and improve its efficiency.

Due to current world’s situation and forced by COVID – 19 pandemic, this year’s Annual General Meeting was the first in the history of the society to be hosted virtually. It was well attended, more than other previous in-person meetings, and I was proud to be able to share with the membership the strength of our society and all the programming and initiatives we have ongoing, the different Fora, the Annual Meeting, Ukraine meeting and following activities. We also announced that the Board selected Colombia to host the 2022 Annual Meeting. It is time for HTAi to return to Latin America.  Our only previous meeting in Latin America was Rio de Janeiro in 2012.  I am also happy to report that after three successful years, our finances are solid and we are confident that we will be able to weather the possible financial impact related to the disruption and inability to host face to face meetings in the short to medium term. Some hard decisions and cut-backs have and will need to be made to ensure we remain committed to the fourth pillar of our strategic plan – Financial Stability and Good Governance. VIEW RECORDING

In addition to the Annual General Meeting going virtual. Since I last wrote to you in May we have delivered several (14) timely and interesting online sessions for the membership and broader community. Including – our COVID Response Webinar Series, Interest Group Webinar Series, and the Global Policy Forum Panel on deliberative processes in HTA was one of the first core Annual Meeting Panels to be broadcast to the membership.

We also successfully delivered the first plenary session on artificial intelligence of the virtual HTAi 2020 meeting.  This session will be rebroadcast in September and there are many more sessions being planned, please do visit the virtual program that is being continually updated with exciting opportunities. With an active membership, you will have the chance to attend the whole meeting and download sessions to view at times that are convenient for you.  As a sneak peek for August and September the virtual plenary, three workshops and 8 panel sessions will dig into leading-edge topics. Discussions will focus on adapting HTA methods to assess disruptive technologies including discussions around stakeholder engagement, extending traditional value frameworks for cell and gene therapies, and assessments for rare diseases. The Patient and Citizen Involvement Group will host a panel on standardized approaches to summarizing information for patients to support international adoption. Any member of the society will be able to follow any single session for the membership fee.

FULL ANNUAL MEETING PROGRAM

Regarding our main strength, the Interest Groups, we are thrilled to announce the formation of a new interest group. Following a survey of the members of the Regulatory Interactions and Conditional Coverage (RICC) Interest Group, the topic of focus for this group will shift to a current hot topic within our community – Real World Evidence and Artificial Intelligence. We are excited to see what the group will bring to the scientific community and how our members will benefit from its work. You can find out more about this Interst Group and how to get involved on the HTAi website. You will also find the Annual Meeting program has workshop and panel sessions that focus on the tangible collection and use of Real-World Evidence in HTA.

As we work to support regional activities with nations embarking upon HTA, we are delighted that the Ukraine meeting planned originally for April 2020, will be delivered virtually September 8th to September 11th. We would like to express our sincere thanks for the local organizers, our local host of HTA Ukraine, and Rabia Kahveci and Jani Mueller for their leadership and support of this regional meeting. REGISTER NOW

Regarding the pandemic, the society remains informed and well connected through international activities. The COVID-19 HTA Response Team has been working on several fronts to support the international community including HTAi collaboration as a non-state actor in official relations with the WHO and other partnerships within the Evidence Collaboration for COVID-19 evidence network. Along with member surveys, webinars, and online resources, the society has also published a position statement on Evidence Standards and Quality Assessment for COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions. More position statements are underway. The Public Health Interest Group will address vaccines and COVID19, a hot topic for the scientific community, policy makers and the world’s citizens. The next position statement will consider elements such as who should be vaccinated first, how should the value be measured, economic aspects, equity, and justice.

As the work of the COVID-19 Response Team continues, we are eager to make sure that it is of value to the Society members – HTAi interest group members recently received an invite to submit ideas, thoughts, and suggestions for consideration.

Thank you to all our volunteers, the members of the society, the members of our secretariat, those who know the value and are dedicated to the international collaboration that brings optimal decision making and patient care. We have the responsibility to continue supporting the use of evidence for decision-making and posterior analysis to understand how those decisions impact the final outcomes to our patients and citizens. Please take care and keep safe!

 

Dr. Iñaki Gutiérrez-Ibarluzea