Cogora: Market Access reports from the launch event for NICE’s new META Tool, held on 3 July 2017.

Payers and manufacturers both want to provide patients with quick access to new healthcare interventions. However, getting there can be difficult, not least when there is a mismatch between manufacturers’ evidence and payers’ expectations. This can cause unnecessary delays that do not only increase the cost to manufacturers but, crucially, compromise patient care by delaying access to new technology.

For the past nine years, NICE has provided early scientific advice to manufacturers to help guide their data collection strategies and improve their chances of reimbursement. However, improving health is not just about pharmaceuticals – medical device, diagnostics and other tech manufacturers are increasingly important players in the provision of healthcare. In recognition of this, NICE launched on 3 July 2017 their new Medtech Early Technical Assessment (META) tool, designed especially for the medtech industry.

The META Tool aims to provide manufacturers with affordable advice that will help them develop an evidence base that aligns with payers’ expectations, ultimately leading to quicker access for patients. The tool follows a Health Technology Assessment (HTA) structure and allows manufacturers to either gain advice from NICE or a specialist organisation. Non-NICE facilitators are organisations with experience in business development for SMEs, cost-effectiveness evaluations and NHS healthcare structures that have been trained by NICE on the HTA and META Tool process.

Following completion of an online application where the manufacturer describes their problem and specifies which facilitator they wish to engage with, they have a telephone discussion with the facilitator of their choice who would then review their data and produce a report with advice on what the evidence gaps are and how the manufacturer should best address them in order to produce an argument that is convincing to payers and commissioners. The report also contains information on which other organisations and HTA bodies the manufacturer should approach, such as the High Cost Devices Portal, the Office for Market Access or other related research organisations.

Feedback from NICE’s initial user testing has been very positive with manufacturers in particular highlighting the value of understanding what the gaps in their evidence base are, how they should best address these gaps and understanding the questions payers are likely to ask and being able to prepare for these. Feedback also included comments on how the advice has helped manufacturers make better use of limited resources by not investing in the wrong tests, understanding who their optimal market is and helping inform their value proposition.

The launch of the META Tool not only recognises the importance of medical device and diagnostics manufacturers to improving patients’ health but is also a sign of the ever-increasing collaboration between payers and manufacturers, which will ultimately benefit patients and manufacturers alike.