Living HTA: Automating Health Technology Assessment with R

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Submitted by rasmith3

Aug. 19, 2022, 8:24 a.m.

Living HTA: Automating Health Technology Assessment with R

Robert A. Smith, Paul P. Schneider, Wael Mohammed
Smith RA, Schneider PP and Mohammed W. Living HTA: Automating Health Technology Assessment with R [version 1; peer review: 1 approved with reservations]. Wellcome Open Res 2022, 7:194 (
DOI:  10.12688/wellcomeopenres.17933.1        

Brief Description
Background: Requiring access to sensitive data can be a significant obstacle for the development of health models in the Health Economics & Outcomes Research (HEOR) setting. We demonstrate how health economic evaluation can be conducted with minimal transfer of data between parties, while automating reporting as new information becomes available.
Methods: We developed an automated analysis and reporting pipeline for health economic modelling and made the source code openly available on a GitHub repository. The pipeline consists of three parts: An economic model is constructed by the consultant using pseudo data. On the data-owner side, an application programming interface (API) is hosted on a server. This API hosts all sensitive data, so that data does not have to be provided to the consultant. An automated workflow is created, which calls the API, retrieves results, and generates a report.
Results: The application of modern data science tools and practices allows analyses of data without the need for direct access – negating the need to send sensitive data. In addition, the entire workflow can be largely automated: the analysis can be scheduled to run at defined time points (e.g. monthly), or when triggered by an event (e.g. an update to the underlying data or model code); results can be generated automatically and then be exported into a report. Documents no longer need to be revised manually.
Conclusions: This example demonstrates that it is possible, within a HEOR setting, to separate the health economic model from the data, and automate the main steps of the analysis pipeline.
Why should we reproduce your paper?
We think this is an interesting paper for anyone who wants to learn to build an API with the R package plumber. This is a novel method in health economics, but we believe will help improve the transparency of modelling methods in our field.
What should reviewers focus on?
Deploying the API using plumber, this is tricky for those new to R and this example will require a RSConnect account.


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