The California Technology Assessment Forum (CTAF), a core program of the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER), reviews objective evidence reports and holds public meetings to develop recommendations for how stakeholders can apply evidence to improve the quality and value of health care.
CTAF seeks to help patients, clinicians, insurers, and policymakers interpret and use evidence to improve the quality and value of health care.
Through its work, CTAF aims to help create a future in which collaborative efforts to move evidence into action provide the foundation for a more effective, efficient, and just health care system.
About the CTAF Process
CTAF holds three public meetings each year at which the ICER report for CTAF is presented, the independent CTAF Panel debates the merits of the evidence and votes on clinical effectiveness and value, and the CTAF Panel and Policy Roundtable formulate recommendations to guide practice and policy. CTAF also has an Advisory Board that provides input regarding topic selection and information dissemination. Each of these is described below.
- ICER Report for CTAF: For every CTAF meeting, ICER staff develop a rigorous evidence report that includes a systematic review of published evidence and the results of economic modeling. A first draft report is posted in advance of the meeting to elicit public comment. After public comments are received, a revised draft report is then posted to inform the CTAF Panel votes and discussion. A final report is produced after the meeting to reflect the outcome of the meeting.
- CTAF Panel: An independent committee of medical evidence experts from across California, with a mix of practicing clinicians, methodologists, and leaders in patient engagement and advocacy, all of whom meet strict conflict of interest guidelines. Panel members typically serve for two or more years, and they are intentionally selected to represent a range of expertise and diversity in perspective. To maintain the objectivity of the Panel and ground the conversation in the interpretation of the published evidence, Panel members are not pre-selected based on the specific topic being addressed at a public meeting. Panel members are not recruited to represent their institution or specialty; they are asked to exercise their individual judgment in all matters.
Acknowledging that any judgment of evidence is strengthened by real-life clinical and patient perspectives, CTAF recruits subject matter experts for each meeting who provide input to Panel members before the meeting to help clarify the Panel’s understanding of the different interventions being analyzed in the evidence review. These same experts may serve as a resource to the Panel during their deliberation, and they may participate on the Policy Roundtable that identifies ways the evidence can be applied to policy and practice.
- Policy Roundtable: At each meeting, after the CTAF Panel vote, a policy roundtable discussion is held with the CTAF Panel, clinical experts, and representatives from provider groups, payers, and patient groups in California. The Policy Roundtable is intended to bring stakeholders into a discussion on how best to apply the evidence to guide patient education, clinical practice, and coverage policies. Participants on the Policy Roundtable are selected for their expertise on the specific meeting topic, are different for each meeting, and do not vote.
- CTAF Advisory Board: A non-governing board composed of representatives from provider groups, public and private payers, patient groups, and purchasers, the CTAF Advisory Board guides topic selection for CTAF meetings and helps stakeholders apply evidence in policy and practice.
CTAF does not make health plan benefit coverage decisions.
CTAF’s long and proud heritage can be traced back to the 1950s when Blue Shield of California formed a medical policy committee (MPC) in conjunction with the California Medical Association. By the 1970s, the MPC was dedicated to ensuring the safety and effectiveness of new technologies, and it was structured as an "open forum" soliciting input from a variety of perspectives. For nearly a decade, until 2013, CTAF was managed and supported by the Blue Shield of California Foundation. The hallmarks of rigor and transparency that form its legacy continue to guide CTAF today. CTAF’s mission has withstood the test of time, guiding CTAF through the many challenges presented by health care delivery and positioning CTAF as an important public benefit for the state of California and its residents. CTAF’s previous technology assessment reviews can be accessed here.
The CTAF program is supported by a grant from the nonprofit Blue Shield of California Foundation, one of California’s largest and most trusted grantmaking organizations, whose mission is to improve the lives of all Californians, particularly the underserved, by making health care accessible, effective, and affordable, and by ending domestic violence. Foundation grantmaking is approved by its Board of Trustees, and its funding priorities and decisions are independent of the Blue Shield of California health plan