The NIHR Horizon Scanning Centre’s identification process uses two principal approaches:
- focussed routine scanning – an ongoing ‘horizontal scan’ designed to identify significant and urgent advances regardless of clinical specialty,
- technology- and disease-based scanning and reviews – ‘vertical scans’ to ensure that all clinical areas are scrutinised over time, to focus on areas with known multiple or complex developments, or in patient groups with significant or unmet needs.
Focused routine scanning includes regular contacts with industry to discuss pipeline developments, routine scanning of media and other information sources, collaboration with clinical and technology experts and expert groups. The process for pharmaceuticals enables pipeline developments from the major pharmaceutical companies to be identified in late phase II or phase III clinical trials and tracked through the final trial and licensing stages.
Technology- or disease-specific reviews can be requested by our national customers and collaborators, or chosen by the NIHR HSC team.
Health professionals, researchers and patients are welcome to propose technologies that may need our attention.
Once technologies have been identified there is an elimination and filtration process. This initially discards minor or incremental developments and those not of relevance to the NHS. A search for additional information may be required prior to filtration and may involve contact with relevant commercial developers and/or clinical or technological experts in the field.
The criteria for final selection are dependent on our agreements with each national decision making body, but will generally include filtration around time to licence or availability, and the level of innovation.
If a technology is selected for further investigation, information is provided in the form of short technology briefings or news briefs. The briefings vary in length and detail but usually include:
- a description of the technology,
- a description of the related patient group with estimated patient numbers,
- the current diagnostic or treatment alternatives,
- the current research evidence of clinical effectiveness,
- details of any ongoing or related research activities, and in some instances,
- an estimate of the clinical, service and, where possible, financial impact.
NIHR HSC technology-based briefings and other outputs are based on information available at the time of research, a limited literature search and information from the commercial developer. Briefings are not not intended to be a definitive statement on the safety, efficacy or effectiveness of the health technology covered, and the NIHR HSC makes no recommendations concerning the use of the particular technology.
MedTech news briefs are short, non-technical summaries on new and emerging medical devices, in vitro diagnostics, imaging techniques and procedures. They are written with a broad readership in mind – including commissioners, hospital and community providers, health professionals, procurement staff and patients.
Pharmaceutical technology briefings are prepared for national NHS priority setting and decision-making, and may be presented in more technical language.