A review of the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research's (AHFMR) 6-month Health Technology Skills Development Program was undertaken within an international context with the purpose of describing and assessing the current program, further formalizing the program based on identified opportunities for improvement, and enhancing collaborative linkages with other agencies. The objectives of the review were to (i) compare the AHFMR program with similar programs in other health technology assessment (HTA) agencies internationally; (ii) assess the value of the program; (iii) identify program strengths and opportunities for improvement; and (iv) review, critique, and recommend enhancements to the program model and role description.
The review involved a qualitative study design that included a survey of the Skills Development Program participants' experience and perceptions; semistructured interviews with program stakeholders, and a written survey of HTA agencies/programs in other Canadian and international jurisdictions.
The review concluded that the program was successful and valued by participants, the Foundation, and stakeholders in the policy and research communities. Findings suggest participant products have a potential for broad influence, including impact on funding decisions related to technology diffusion, influence through publications and presentations, and knowledge transfer in the participants' disciplines and employment settings. The main opportunity for enhancement was to differentiate the program into two streams according to different needs of participants, specifically between those who desire to be HTA producers and/or make HTA their careers, and those who desire to apply HTA in their employment capacity as policy or clinical decision-makers.