Objectives: Although increasing effort is being devoted to developing strategies to increase knowledge transfer and the uptake of health technology assessment (HTA) by various stakeholders, very little is known about the utilization and dissemination of HTA findings by patient and consumer organizations. The goal of this study is to understand how and why patient and consumer organizations use HTA findings within their organizations, and what factors influence how and when they communicate their findings to members or other organizations.
Methods: We examined the use and dissemination of four controversial HTA reports by sixteen patient and consumer organizations in Ontario and Quebec. We gathered data from semistructured interviews conducted between December 2006 and April 2007.
Results: Although HTA findings are often used by the patient and consumer organizations, key differences were observed in exactly how the four HTA reports were used. Three types of use (instrumental, conceptual, and symbolic) are reported and illustrated. We highlight the importance of the organization's mission and knowledge base in explaining the types of use observed.
Conclusions: We contend that the use and dissemination of HTA reports by specific groups could help in widening the debate around controversial health technologies. The implications and opportunities for HTA agencies relate to the following: (i) identification of "lay" organizations that could help in disseminating results; (ii) acknowledgement of a "lay" audience for HTA findings; (iii) strategic inclusion of advocacy groups during the assessment process for highly controversial technologies; and (iv) contribution of these organizations to the push efforts of knowledge transfer.