National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
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A ‘safe space’ for addressing complex health technology assessment challenges

Nick Crabb discusses how we’re developing a collaborative space for research and development, to help us create new methods and processes for health technology assessment.

Innovative medicines, medical devices and diagnostics are arriving at an unprecedented pace.

At NICE, it’s our duty to keep ahead of these developments to make sure patients gain rapid access to the most promising, cutting-edge treatments. So, we’re taking a number of measures to address this. These include developing a proportionate approach to technology appraisals to increase our capacity. We’re also developing a new collaborative space for research and development – called the Health Technology Assessment innovation Laboratory (HTA Lab).

Using collaborative and innovative approaches, the HTA Lab will enable us to work with our stakeholders to develop solutions to complex HTA issues – disruptive new health technologies and broader methods, process and policy issues. It will help drive solutions to current and future health challenges –taking innovation from the lab and into practice.

Introducing sandbox – a ‘safe space’ for developing solutions

The HTA Lab will use a 'sandbox' approach to developing solutions to complex HTA problems. The sandbox concept was first pioneered in the financial sector as a way of providing a safe space for businesses to push the boundaries and innovate on new products and ways of working. As such, they can explore approaches that may not fit within existing practices, but that have the potential for significant benefits if adopted as standard practice.

Through the European Horizon 2020 HTx project, NICE has already made a major contribution to applying a 'sandbox' approach to HTA, in collaboration with multiple stakeholders. We will apply this experience to the HTA Lab – using the sandbox as a development and testing environment that allows us to collaborate with our stakeholders to trial new methods, processes and policies.

I would note HTA Lab does not replace NICE’s formal arrangements for adopting new methods and processes. It offers a new way of harnessing the ideas and creativity of our stakeholder community in solving complex HTA issues.

First steps – a framework for rapid entry to managed access

The first project that the HTA Lab will undertake is developing and piloting a framework for rapid entry to managed access. Our aim is to develop efficient and timely processes prior to suitable products entering managed access arrangements. This will help provide patients with access to financially sustainable, important medicines while the evidence of their effectiveness is still emerging. When developing the framework, we will need to consider how it successfully interacts with the Cancer Drugs Fund and Innovative Medicines Fund.

The HTA Lab presents an exciting opportunity for NICE, and our stakeholder community. Through a process of co-creation, it will help us produce useful and useable solutions to complex HTA issues, enabling access to the treatments that provide the greatest benefits for patients.


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