There have been calls in recent years for greater public involvement in health technology assessment (HTA). Yet the concept of public involvement is poorly articulated and little attention has been paid to the context of HTA agencies. This article investigates how public involvement is conceptualized in the HTA agency environment. Using qualitative concept analysis methods, we reviewed the HTA literature and the websites of HTA agencies and conducted semi-structured interviews with informants in Canada, Denmark, and the United Kingdom. Our analysis reveals that HTA agencies' role as bridges or boundary organizations situated at the frontier of research and policymaking causes the agencies to struggle with the idea of public involvement. The HTA community is concerned with conceptualizing public involvement in such a way as to meet scientific and methodological standards without neglecting its responsibilities to healthcare policymakers. We offer a conceptual tool for analyzing the nature of public involvement across agencies, characterizing different domains, levels of involvement, and types of publics.
Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.