Background: Since its inception, the field of health technology assessment (HTA) has stressed the need for consideration of ethical and social issues. However, few concepts or analytic tools have been developed, and because of the complexity of the endeavor and a lack of integration of work already produced, such concepts remain difficult to apply in HTA.
Objectives: Through a descriptive "map" of concepts, tools, and processes, we summarize the most tangible efforts on the part of HTA producers to address social and ethical issues.
Methods: A literature review and content analysis of HTA reports in the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination database enables a synthesis of the reflections on, initiatives around, and gaps in knowledge related to the integration of social and ethical issues in HTA.
Results: We examine: (i) the aim of integrating ethical and social issues in HTA, (ii) the theoretical approaches used, (iii) the methods and processes applied, and (iv) the implications for HTA producers. We highlight two levels at which social and ethical issues can be considered: throughout the production process of HTA reports and as part of the organizational structure of HTA agencies.
Conclusions: Given the profound societal changes that occur in relation to healthcare technology development, HTA producers have a responsibility to inform and enlighten technology-related public and policy debates. Fulfilling this role, though, requires that socioethical dimensions of technology and HTA are made explicit.