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December 21, 1984

Technology Assessment: Differing Perspectives

Author Affiliations

American Medical Association Chicago

JAMA. 1984;252(23):3294-3295. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350230054035

As a concept, the term medical technology assessment* is interpreted differently by different intellectual disciplines. To the physician, the essence of medical technology assessment is the focus on the clinical safety and efficacy of drugs, medical devices, and technical procedures; medicine's raison d'être is improved patient care and enhanced quality of patients' lives.

In contrast, an economist's assessment of medical technology will use that discipline's evaluation tools, which include an emphasis on a variety of cost-accounting approaches. These have the very real potential to create conflict in a variety of areas central to the practice of medicine. Where the generally accepted medical credo strives for the greatest good for the individual patient, the new economic imperative calls for "the greatest good for the greatest number," within clearly defined limits on available resources. This can readily create a "cost" v "access and quality" imbalance, and some patients may pay dearly. One