Evaluation and Development of Economic and Administrative Process Technologies for Health Care

Pertti Ahonen

Abstract


Technology policy and governance of technology cannot ride solely on technology itself, because technology is intertwined with political, administrative, sociological, cultural and economic issues. Technology policy and technology governance need to adapt knowledge on those issues for their purposes. In dealing with this challenge, let us coin the neologism ‘economic and administrative process technologies.' This term can be seen as an adjunct to such key targets of technology policies, technology programmes and their projects as information and communication technologies (ICTs), biotechnologies and new materials technologies. The empirical references of the paper are the Finnish technology policies and technology governance, although the
argument runs in a more general than only a country-specific level. Summarising the results of the paper, first, from an international perspective, economic and administrative process technologies supplementing their engineering, medicine and natural science counterparts are far from fully elaborated. Reasons for this include the fact that technology assessment (TA) in health care is still relatively underdeveloped with respect to its full utilisation and its economic orientation. In health care, economic and administrative technologies intertwine with other technologies, importantly clinical ones, and the boundary between those two types of technologies frequently remains hazy. For said reasons, it is advisable to consider the economic and administrative process technologies not only per se but also by combining the two perspectives of economic evaluation in health care on the one hand, and TA in health care on the other. The results suggest, further, that so far, health care has not been blessed with solid evidence-based economic and administrative process technologies, which is unlike the case in several substantive health care fields. So far, most TAs in health care have been constrained in their scope. Economic evaluation has made uneven progress with respect to such development trends in health care as the definition of clinical pathways, the integration of information systems and knowledge types, the improvement of cooperation between various professions dealing with health care and the strengthening of ICT-supported self-care of patients and citizens interested in an effective prevention of illness. Among the economic and administrative process technologies of health care, particular consideration can be directed upon applications of industrial economics and business economics in the management of health processes, small-scale TA in health, and knowledge brokering in health care. The paper concludes with a brief consideration of relevant ‘weak signals' for future development.

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