The Department of Health Research (DHR)'s ambitious proposal to establish a Medical Technology Assessment Board (MTAB) is moving at a snail's pace as even after almost four years of its proposal. The Board is yet to become a reality.
Once in place, the Board will recommend technologies (drugs, devices, method of treatment, etc.) in the area of health after evaluating them on their efficacy, appropriateness and cost effectiveness. This would serve as an important tool in prioritizing national health spending and help achieve universal health coverage by providing affordable health care.
As per the proposal, the MTAB would facilitate the process of decision-making in healthcare at the Central and State policy level by providing reliable information based on scientific evidence; develop systems and mechanisms to assess new and existing health technologies by transparent and inclusive processes; appraise health interventions and technologies based on available data on resource use, cost, clinical effectiveness and safety; collect and analyze evidence in a systematic and reproducible way and ensure its accessibility and usefulness to inform health policy; and disseminate research findings and resulting policy decisions to educate and empower the public to make better informed decisions for health.
Earlier in October 2103, the DHR decided to set up the MTAB for evaluation and appropriateness and cost effectiveness of the available and new health technologies in the country. Currently, introduction of different technologies including instrumentation is not based on sound analysis by independent and neutral experts in the country. It is often based on recommendations and suggestions of end users who may not be well versed on the comparative usefulness of different technologies and equipments. This results in incurring unjustified expenditure without adequate proof of advancement and is also harmful to the growth of industry aimed at production of affordable tools.
According to sources, though it is almost four years since it was proposed, the Board is yet to become a reality in the country. Sources also said that though some meetings of the Advisory Group for setting up of MTAB under DHR were held during this period under the chairmanship of Dr. V. M. Katoch, former secretary, DHR and for director general, ICMR, nothing has materialised so far to establish the MTAB.
The MTAB aims to encourage the process and finalise the development of standardized cost effective interventions that will reduce the cost and variations in patient care, expenditure on medical equipment indirectly affecting the cost of patient care, overall cost of medical treatment, reduction in out of pocket expenditure of patients and streamline the medical reimbursement procedures.
The need to establish such a board was discussed and recommended by 12th Plan Working Group on Health Research. Considering the recommendations, the government recognized the urgent requirement of Medical Technology Board in India and therefore, has decided to set up MTAB for evaluation and appropriateness and cost effectiveness of the available and new health technologies in the country.
The MTAB will be part of the overall regulatory, promotional structure being established in the DHR to accelerate indigenous production of health products, instruments or medical devices that are vital for providing cost effective healthcare.