How do you identify promising new treatments and find the data you need to compare risks and benefits? The opinions of specialists, a call to a university medical center, and a literature search are good starting points. But often, it's possible to cut right to the chase.
"Physicians are very busy, and many times there are 30 to 50 articles published about a particular technology," says Susan Gleeson, vice president of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association's Technology Evaluation Center. "Even if a physician reads them all, how does he synthesize them, particularly if there are conflicting results? What you need is a structured process for going through all that evidence. That's what we do--synthesize the literature, analyze it, put the results before a panel of experts, and come to a conclusion."
The Blues' conclusions, covering about 300 therapies, are summarized in a $400 newsletter, Tecnologica. The TEC also publishes its full evaluations, for $13,500 a year. Insurers, including Prudential, Kaiser, CIGNA, Mutual of Omaha, PacifiCare, and all Blue plans, subscribe. So, you may be able to get information about a particular TEC assessment through a health plan you contract with.
The American Medical Association also evaluates the safety and effectiveness of medical treatments, in its DATTA program (Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technology Assessment. …