HEALTH TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT IN ITALY
Italy has a national health service (SSN) dating to 1978. Italy's system of government is characterized by a rather high degree of decentralization of power, and the health system is likewise decentralized. Most of the responsibilities for health care have been ceded to the regions. The state retains only limited coordinating and supervisory powers. The state has a financial responsibility for the national health service, but state contributions are limited and expenditures in excess of this made by the region must be financed from other sources. Health reforms of 1992–93 aimed at making the regions more sensitive to the need to control aggregate expenditure and to monitor measures to promote efficiency, quality, and citizen-patient satisfaction. The diffusion of individual health technologies has been relatively uncontrolled in many regions in Italy, although tight central constraints on capital spending have contained diffusion of new technology. Regulation of placement of services is a planning function and is the responsibility of both the Ministry of Health and the regions. Health technology assessment (HTA) activities have been expanding since the early 1990s, but these activities tend to be untargeted, uncoordinated, and without priorities. Nonetheless, the principal actors in the SSN at national, regional, and local levels are becoming more sensitive to the need to apply criteria of clinical and cost-effectiveness and to be more rigorous in deciding what services to guarantee. There are reasons to be guardedly optimistic about the future of HTA in Italy.
Key Words: Technology assessment; biomedical; Delivery of health care; Italy.