HTAi 2012, Bilbao

The HTAi conference is a strange beast. HTA means different things in different countries - so an international conference to cover HTA is bound to look a little strange to almost everyone. Conversely, almost everyone should be able to find something of interest there.

Health Technology Assessment (to spell out HTA) is a field of scientific research to inform policy and clinical decision-making around the introduction and diffusion of health technologies. But different countries have different views on how it should be done. For example, the usual model in most of Europe is to undertake systematic reviews and limited modelling, whereas the UK HTA programme will adopt any appropriate method (including clinical trials) to address questions of importance to the UKs National Health Services.

HTAi is an international membership organisation for individuals with an interest in HTA (INAHTA is an equivalent membership organisation for organisations with an interest in HTA). HTAi holds an annual conference - and in 2012 it was held in Bilbao, Spain.

The conference consistently offers a range of sessions - from the very good to the awful. There are some outstandly interesting ones (such as a session this year on the use and development of registries), some which are good but of little interest to me, and some where I have to wonder if the presenter has any clue what they're talking about.

What I realised this year is that most people presenting in the open sessions at this conference do so adopting the same error. A typical 12 minute presentation runs along the pattern of:

  • The problem - 1 minutes
  • How I went about solving it - 1 minute
  • The results - 10 minutes

But what the presenter doesn't realise is that I don't care about the detail of their results - as they are almost never generalisable. The process (if I have a similar problem) is however of much more interest, as I can potentially adapt that to my own situation.

It's more than the sessions that make this conference worth going to however - there's far more value in meeting people in the discipline from other countries, and even from the UK. It'd just be a bit more valuable if presenters thought for a moment about what their audience might want to hear, rather than what they want to say.