ECRI Institute identifies 1,000 healthcare technologies to address
6 July 2012
The US ECRI Institute has identified nearly 1,000 new and
emerging healthcare technologies and services with the potential to
address an unmet patient need.
It conducted a horizon scanning exercise on behalf of the US
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). These
interventions, which cut across scores of diseases and conditions,
are described in newly published reports that are free and available
to the public on AHRQ’s Effective Health Care website.
One report, Horizon Scanning Status Update, is a compendium of
the topics being tracked in the system and includes a short
description of each technology or service detailing the unmet need,
potential patient population, intervention, developer, phase of
development, comparators, and potential health impacts. The
Potential High Impact Reports discuss topics within each priority
condition that may have potential for high impact based on comments
and opinions of various experts with clinical, health systems,
health administration, and/or research backgrounds.
“The horizon scanning system is intended to help inform AHRQ’s
deliberations for allocating resources for patient-centered outcomes
research,” says ECRI Institute’s Karen Schoelles, MD, SM, project
director for the Healthcare Horizon Scanning System. “Other groups
engaging in comparative effectiveness research may also find these
resources useful to identify potential comparators or even
technologies or procedures in development that might disrupt current
treatment paradigms,” adds Schoelles.
As the nation’s first and only initiative of its kind, the
Healthcare Horizon Scanning System is a multi-year project designed
to provide a comprehensive, systematic, transparent process for
identifying, tracking, and monitoring new healthcare interventions
and technologies across 14 priority areas identified by AHRQ. These
priority areas include arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular diseases,
dementia, depression, developmental delays, diabetes, functional
limitations, infectious disease, obesity, peptic ulcer disease,
pregnancy, pulmonary disease, and substance abuse. ECRI Institute
also added a “cross-cutting” area to track interventions that impact
more than 1 of the 14 priority areas identified by AHRQ.
Since December 2010, more than 10,000 leads have been uploaded
into the system for consideration, and about 1,400 topics have been
identified and moved through the system, according to the procedures
outlined in the protocol. Topics in the system must be in
development for humans and intended for use in the US healthcare
system. Topics that meet criteria for inclusion in the Horizon
Scanning System are tracked not only while interventions are in
development, but up to 2 years after initial diffusion/commercial
availability in the United States.
The criteria and process for identifying interventions to be
tracked in the AHRQ Healthcare Horizon Scanning System are described
in detail in the Horizon Scanning Protocol and Operations Manual.
An unmet need may arise from a gap in effective ways to screen,
diagnose, treat, monitor, manage, or provide or deliver care for a
health condition or disease. Interventions might be lacking entirely
(eg, treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy) or existing options
might be less than optimal. Unmet need also arises from conditions
for which significant barriers exist to obtaining effective care,
such as heart transplantation, or conditions for which availability
of certain treatments is limited by location, access, or cultural or
ethnic barriers that could cause health disparities.
In the just-published Horizon Scanning Status Update report, five
priority areas comprise about 76% of the interventions (including
programs) being tracked. Interventions related to cancer account for
30% of identified and monitored topics.
Other areas in descending order of number of topics being tracked
are in the priority areas of functional limitations and disability
(18%), cardiovascular diseases (11%), infectious diseases (11%), and
diabetes (6%). Interventions being tracked in the remaining eight
priority conditions (arthritis; dementia; depression and other
mental illness; obesity; peptic ulcer disease and dyspepsia;
pregnancy and childbirth; pulmonary diseases; substance abuse)
account for 4% or less each, or a combined total of almost 24% of
the interventions being tracked in the system.
“Overall, more than 84% of topics in the system fall into one of
four general categories,” notes program manager Diane Robertson.
"About 62% are a pharmaceutical/biotechnology; about 14% are
devices—either implanted or used to deliver treatments externally;
about 5% are technologies intended to screen, diagnose, and/or
monitor a disease state; and about 3% are
The most recent Potential High Impact Reports include 108 topics
that are expected to have potential for high impact in the 14
priority areas and a cross-cutting category. The determination of
potential impact is made using a systematic process of gathering
opinions and impressions about potential impact from a variety of
experts. Perspectives of an expert with a conflict of interest (COI)
are balanced by perspectives of experts without COIs. No more than
two experts with a possible COI are considered out of a total of the
seven or eight experts who are sought to provide comment for each
AHRQ’s Effective Health Care website:
Horizon Scanning Status Update:
Potential High Impact Reports: