President's Blog

Building on solid pillars for the successful future of HTAi


Timber! Timber! Building on solid pillars for the successful future of HTAi.

Dear HTAi Community, members, colleagues, and friends:

When I was younger than now (we will never be younger than today), I used to watch Marx Brothers’ films and loved Groucho for his fine sense of humor and way of acting. Among his celebrated quotes I would mention two, the first one relates to the Marx Brothers film, Go West, in which he was shouting in the scene on the train “Timber,… Timber,…”. Initially I watched the film in its Spanish language dubbing and in that Spanish translation, he said “More wood, this is war”. I realized that the Spanish translation was not accurate when I watched the film in its original version, but it was also fine as it was related to a different context. However, the correct translation would have been “¡Árbol va! The second quote I will refer to was said by him in the film, Animal Crackers.  Here, Groucho said, “I’ll show you a thing or three”. So, more wood, more food for thought and I will try to show you a thing or three that I hope will pique your interest.

Firstly, the HTAi Secretariat continues to deliver valuable services to its members on virtual platforms, despite many changes and staff turnover the last few months. I want to acknowledge our staff for their commitment, their continuous support and their professionalism in these so-convulsive times in which most of them have been required to work remotely and across different time zones with activities organized all over the world. We have been very successful though. It is clear by the volume and quality of content as well as the number of members registering and participating in virtual events, the interest to collaborate and share HTA continues. We are a remarkable Society with a highly knowledgeable and dedicated membership. I am grateful that we live in an era where disruptions caused by a pandemic can in many ways be augmented by modern communications technology to support our interests to connect and engage with colleagues and organizations around the world.

The second thing about the HTAi Secretariat that should be mentioned is that after a thoughtful process in which more than 200 hundred candidates were scrutinized, we have selected a new Executive Director (ED). On behalf of the Board of Directors I would like to welcome our new ED, Rob Abbott.  Rob took up his ED duties on October 1, and he is looking forward to engaging with the HTAi team and communicating his values and desire to create the space in which a picture of the next stage of HTAi’s journey is co-created under his leadership. He cares passionately about improving health outcomes globally and sees HTA as a vehicle to achieve this. With that in mind, he wants to inspire the Secretariat team, and offer the team the support it needs to help advance the vision and mission of HTAi. The Board has given him clear directions and free hands to surf the challenges and the opportunities emanating from our newly defined Strategic plan and HTA’s new definition. The Secretariat will be reshaped to better address the challenges and opportunities.

What about Annual Meetings’ update? The 2021 Annual Meeting abstract submission portal has gone live.  Workshop and panel abstracts are accepted until October 8, 2020. Oral, Vignette and Poster Abstracts are accepted until November 26, 2020. Please, submit your proposals for this new and so exciting journey. With so much uncertainly in the future, we are planning for a hybrid model, a combination of in-person and virtual events, for the Annual Meeting 2021 in Manchester. The theme for next year’s HTAi Annual Meeting is Innovation through HTA. The main theme is supplemented by 3 plenary themes which broaden the scope for discussion and allow wider exploration of the challenges of embedding HTA in global health systems. More details about the main and plenary themes are available on the HTAi 2021 website.

The Beijing Annual Meeting is still with us offering new opportunities to learn about what others do and what we offer to the HTA community. The HTAi 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting program is open and continues to offer live and on-demand sessions. From July through December we will have 32 sessions offered to our Members. In addition to the sessions, the virtual event portal is now also offering access to this year’s poster submissions. As a member you can enjoy complementary registration and content access.  It is still not too late to register. Most submitters have agreed to produce their material in digital format, so this is a huge opportunity at your fingertips, just for the HTAi membership fee.

Timber! … Timber! … More activities to be mentioned, HTAi held a Ukrainian Regional meeting virtually from Kyiv, Ukraine, September 8-11. The theme of the meeting was Integrating HTA into healthcare reforms in emerging settings. We had 23 remarkable speakers, including dignitaries such as Ihor Ivashchenko, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Health on European Integration at that time, now Acting Minister of Health; Recep Akdag, Former Minister of Health, Turkey; Marcin Czech, Former Deputy Minister of Health, Poland. 150 participants attended panels and courses as they wanted to learn, share, and hear new ideas that matter in advancing health systems throughout the world. I thank the HTAi’s Organizing Committee under the leadership of Rabia Kahveci, Committee Chair and past Board member for her continuous support, Jani Mueller, current member of the Board and Chair of the Scientific Development and Capacity Building Committee, Oresta Piniazhko, one of HTA’s leaders at Ukraine and Mouna Jameleddine, current CEO of HTA agency in Tunis, and members of our Secretariat staff for organizing this successful event. We want to continue the dialogue and keep the new contacts in this new region for HTAi’s activities. Opportunities will arise from this fruitful collaboration.

At this stage of pandemics and with so much information and misinformation, it can be difficult to know what tools and educational workshops are worth using or attending. HTAi through the Scientific Development and Capacity Building Committee is close to finalizing the Accredited by HTAi program. Through this program, a review panel will assess applications for HTA accreditation. The goal is to set the standard for leading tools and content in HTA. HTA products and events with this recognition will include the HTAi logo. The use of the HTAi logo will equate to a perception of endorsement by the Society; therefore, the Accreditation Process intends to ensure that such activities and materials using the logo will meet the Society’s quality standards. This program aligns with the Society’s vision and will provide assurance to anyone seeking to use HTA tools or courses. The committee received 11 submissions to date and has had the opportunity to test the accreditation process.

Our committees and groups continue working despite the challenges we are facing. Interest Groups’ Annual Business Meetings (ABM) are taking place virtually this year. Several have successfully taken place already, including: Ethics, Developing Countries, and Patient and Citizen Involvement. With upcoming ABM webinars from: Real World Evidence and Artificial Intelligence.

Centred on the pandemics and trying to provide a coordinated response from HTAi, the Covid-19 HTA Response Webinar Series by COVID Response Team continue to provide a platform for discussion with member-driven content. So far, HTAi has delivered five webinars and the sixth webinar titled “Modelling the Differences of Populations” will take place on October 8. These webinars are accessible to the public. We have had over 430 participants to date. This is a great achievement. A new COVID-19 position statement on vaccines was circulated to the members for feedback. The final position statement will be posted soon.

Other regional activities are in place and/or will be held with the help of the Secretariat, the commitment of the Board and the active participation of members. For instance, HTA engagement in Latin America is very active. The virtual Latin American Forum is coming October 19-21, 2020, under the leadership of outgoing Chair, Laura Sampietro-Colom and with hand-over to the new chair Hector Castro. The topic of the Forum is Technology Prioritization Mechanisms for HTA Agencies. As HTAi continues its efforts to reduce barriers to access, this meeting and its materials will be developed in both English and Spanish languages.

Finally, we continue exploring with the chair of AsiaPacific Policy Forum, Brendon Kearney, the most effective ways of deploying the materials and content of the HTAi AsiaPacific Policy Forum. This will be another success for the Society, with the active participation of the members in the region and the hand to hand work with WHO. Similarly we are already exploring the work to be done for the Global Policy Forum. Scientific affairs area of the Society will be also enhanced with the help of our new ED and the comments received from the different committees and chairs. By the time you read my next blog post, it is likely that many of these new changes will be in place.

As you can see, HTAi continues to provide valuable services to members. I hope you are seeing real value in what we are doing and will consider renewing your membership.

Allow me to finish with another quote from Groucho Marx from the film, Monkey Business: “Either this man is dead, or my watch has stopped”. We have shown that HTAi has not stopped during this stormy and difficult time, our clock is in good order and the patient is very much alive and kicking and progressing confidently into the future.


Dr. Iñaki Gutiérrez-Ibarluzea