Mobilising modern facts: health technology assessment and the politics of evidence

Authors


Address for correspondence: Carl May, Centre for Health Services Research, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 21 Claremont Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE2 4AA e-mail: c.r.may@ncl.ac.uk

Abstract

Conventional models of ‘evidence’ for clinical practice focus on the role of randomised controlled clinical trials and systematic reviews as technologies that promote a specific model of rigour and analytic accountability. The assumption that runs through the disciplinary field of health technology assessment (HTA), for example, is that the quantification of evidence about cost and clinical effectiveness is central to rational policy-making and healthcare provision. But what are the conditions in which such knowledge is mediated into decision-making contexts, and how is it understood and used when it gets there? This paper addresses these questions by examining a series of meetings and seminars attended by senior clinical researchers, social care and health service managers in the UK between 1998–2004, and sessions of the House of Commons Health Committee held in 2001 and 2005. These provide contexts in which questions about the value and utility of evidence produced within the frame of HTA were explored in relation to parallel questions about the design, evaluation and implementation of telemedicine and telecare systems. The paper points to the ways that evidence generated in the normative frame of HTA was increasingly seen as one-dimensional and medicalised knowledge that failed to respond to the contingencies of everyday practice in health and social care settings.

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