The International Information Network on New and Emerging Health Technologies (EuroScan) is a collaborative network of member agencies for the exchange of information on important new and emerging health technologies (drugs, devices, procedures, programmes, and settings in health care). The collaboration has pooled their experience and knowledge to agree on a number of definitions and criteria associated with early awareness and alert activities.
The aim of EuroScan is to support a permanent network among agencies and organisations involved in early awareness and alert activities to:
- Exchange information on new and emerging health technologies;
- Evaluate the sources of information used for identification;
- Share applied methods for identification, filtration, prioritisation and early assessment;
- Disseminate information on early identification and assessment activities.
Early Awareness and Alert Systems
An early awareness and alert system for new and emerging health care technologies, also called early warning or horizon scanning systems, generally has five main components:
- The identification of emerging health technologies and new applications of existing technologies
- Filtration and prioritization to identify those technologies with the potential to have a significant impact in the future
- Assessment of the impact of these technologies
- Dissemination of the resulting information
- Monitoring of assessed technologies.
An EAAS focuses on technologies that are:
- New – A technology in the phase of adoption that has only been available for clinical use for a short time and is generally in the launch or early post-marketing stages, or
- Emerging – A technology that is not yet adopted by the health care system; pharmaceuticals will usually be in phase II or phase III clinical trials or perhaps pre-launch; medical devices will be prior to marketing, or within 6 months of marketing, or marketed but <10% diffused, or localized to a few centers, or
- Represent a change in indication or use of an existing technology, or are part of a group of developing technologies that may as a whole, have an impact.
Prioritization and Selection Criteria
Most EAASs have a set of prioritization criteria to select technologies that may require further assessment of their potential benefits, costs and service impacts. Technologies are generally prioritized when one or more of the following factors are present:
- Significant uncertainties regarding health benefit or cost effectiveness
- Some health benefit if the technology diffuses widely:
- A technology that is an innovative therapy for a disease or disorder for which no satisfactory standard treatment is currently available; or
- A new, potentially more effective therapy, measured by relevant outcomes, than current standard treatment; or
- A new therapy with significantly fewer known side effects or long term adverse effects than the current standard treatment.
- Significant cost impact if the technology is widely diffused because of moderate to high unit costs and/or patient numbers and/or service re-organization requirements
- Potential for inappropriate diffusion (too fast or too slow) or use of the technology
- Other significant impacts such as staff retraining or service re-organization
- Significant legal, ethical, political, environmental or social issues are associated with the use of the technology
Each EuroScan member agency is unique in the way it approaches its work but all have a common goal of informing their customers about new and emerging health technologies that may have a significant impact on their health system. The collaboration has developed a methods toolkit to summarise the various approaches employed to achieve this goal and to provide valuable information to agencies interested in establishing, or improving an existing, EAAS.
A consultative approach was used involving all member agencies resulting in an end product covering all aspects of EAASs processes as well as presenting key questions and offering possible solutions. The toolkit has been constructed on the basis of “one size doesn’t fit all”, as it utilises the heterogeneity of its members.