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The historical role of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in health technology assessment (HTA) is outlined in a recent article by the late John M. Eisenberg, M.D., M.B.A., AHRQ's former director, and Deborah A. Zarin, M.D., who directs AHRQ's HTA program. They chronicle the Federal Government's HTA activities, beginning with the creation of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) in 1972, followed by the National Center for Health Care Technology and the Office of Health Technology Assessment (OHTA). OHTA was a component of the National Center for Health Services Research and Health Care Technology Assessment (NCHSR). NCHSR later became the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR), AHRQ's predecessor.
OHTA's role was to advise the Healthcare Financing Administration (HCFA, now the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, CMS) on coverage decisions for new medical technologies under the Medicare program. The Agency continues its role as science advisor to CMS by providing health technology assessments to the Coverage and Analysis Group at CMS, whose coverage decisions are often followed by private health insurers. These technology assessments are conducted internally by AHRQ staff or through contract and collaboration with one of the Agency's 13 Evidence-based Practice Centers.
AHRQ also convenes interagency committees and task forces of independent experts engaged in performing health technology assessment, such as the Quality Interagency Coordination Task Force and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Drs. Eisenberg and Zarin discuss the effects of economic globalization and cooperative agreements—which affect markets for drugs and medical devices—on the creation of new opportunities for international cooperation in health technology assessment.
See "Health technology assessment in the United States: Past, present, and future," by Drs. Eisenberg and Zarin, in the International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care 18(2), pp. 192-198, 2002.
Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 02-R072) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.
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