• China is among one of iDSI’s many partner countries that has made the most remarkable progress on embedding health technology assessment (HTA) into its health system. Facing rising health expenditures amidst growing non-communicable disease burdens, China in 2018 launched the National Center for Medicine and Health Technology Assessment under the China National Health Development and Research Center (CNHDRC), the official thinktank of the National Health Commission and iDSI core partner. The national HTA agency will assess new medicines, inform decisions on what goes on the National Essential Medicines List (EML), and guide regional policy to ensure that priority-setting is based on value.

Our Impact

iDSI has:

Directly supported establishment of the National Center for Medicine and Health Technology Assessment under CNHDRC

Strengthened the technical capacity for HTA through the China Health Policy and Technology Assessment Network

iDSI’s longstanding partnership and friendship with China began in 2009, when the Global Health and Development Group (GHD, formerly NICE International) collaborated with CNHDRC to strengthen the evidential base of clinical pathways and pilots for surgical procedures and non-communicable diseases within the context of wider rural health insurance reforms in China. Drawing on GHD’s expertise in health technology assessment (HTA) and clinical guidelines, we have worked together on capacity-building; multi-stakeholder engagement; and changes to IT infrastructure and payment reform within pilot hospitals.

In 2018 CNHDRC became a core partner of iDSI, having secured its own funding from the Gates Foundation to help establish an institutionalised mechanism for translating HTA evidence into policy, and emphasising iDSI’s commitment to forge global partnerships to achieve real world health gains.

Institutionalising HTA across the provinces of China

Following technical support from iDSI, the China Health Policy and Technology Assessment Network launched under the leadership of CNHDRC in 2016 by Ma Xiaowei, vice-minister of the National Health and Family Planning Commission, as a critical foundation for institutionalising HTA in China. The network brings together academic groups and other research organisations to provide capacity for generating HTA evidence and guide methods development. At the launch the vice-minister described HTA as a “necessary precondition” for achieving Healthy China 2030, a government programme to promote the health of China.

Our current collaborations with CNHDRC and its National Center for Medicine and Health Technology Assessment focus on implementing evidence-informed processes to guide national healthcare spending decisions – for instance the incorporation of HTA principles and methods into priority-setting for diagnostics and vaccines. These are key steps in China’s journey towards achieving Universal Health Coverage for 1.4bn citizens.


By the network’s second annual meeting in 2017, 37 organisations (representing the majority of China’s provinces) including many prominent Chinese universities, research institutes and hospitals, joined under the leadership of the CNHDRC and the National Health Commission. The network has 48 member institutions to date and held workshops and seminars in 31 provinces, including technical capacity strengthening and methods training by iDSI, and has proven to be essential groundwork for the subsequent establishment of the National Center for Medicine and Health Technology Assessment, and a China-wide infrastructure providing technical capacity.

A timeline of the evolution of HTA in China.

BMJ: Tessa Richards: China to set the bar high for new health technologies

Improving quality of care through evidence-based clinical pathways in rural China

iDSI collaborated with CNHDRC to evaluate and introduce clinical pathways for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and stroke as part of an initiative that dates back to 2009. The pathways covered prevention, treatment and rehabilitation guidance for clinicians at different levels of healthcare delivery, linking payment mechanisms to evidence-based, high quality clinical practice; and were launched in four pilot counties in November 2013.


In collaboration with CNHDRC, the University of Glasgow took the pathways work as a case study in the development of a mixed-methods framework to measure the value and return-on-investment of HTA. Preliminary findings suggest that the pathways appeared to be cost-effective, moreover the process of HTA itself creates value which offsets the costs of undertaking and implementing HTA. The framework methodology and results will be published in a series of reports and peer-reviewed publications through 2019.

Key reads

We value the important work on clinical pathways, and we hope [iDSI] will continue helping us with the healthcare reforms in China.Mr Ma Xiaowei Vice Minister of the National Health Commission, China

People-to-people engagement between China and UK

The momentum behind HTA in China has in part been facilitated by longstanding relationships between GHD, Imperial College London and Chinese stakeholders, following annual UK study tours for high-ranking central government and provincial officials to learn about the UK National Health Service approach to setting priorities fairly for UHC. Since 2014, delegates have visited to develop their understanding of the UK healthcare system, including health-related legislation and regulatory mechanisms, policy development and health reforms.

Along with off-site visits to locations including St Thomas’ Hospital, the groups have visited and received talks on a wide range of topics including from the Department of Health, Public Health England and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency on protecting and improving public health; National Institute for Health and Care Excellence on the HTA infrastructure and processes and the development of evidence-based clinical pathways and integrated care pathways; the pricing of branded and generic pharmaceuticals in the UK; vaccine evaluation; and how to best to make use of electronic health record systems.


The 2017 study tour was timed to coincide with the 5th UK-China People-to-People Health dialogue, attended by UK Secretary for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt; Vice Minister of National Health Commission Cui Li; and UK Minister for Public Health and Primary Care Steve Brine. Vice Premier Mme Liu Yandong and Mr Jeremy Hunt signed the joint statement on UK-China Dialogue achievements and future commitments, highlighting a commitment on both sides to support HTA capacity building through ongoing collaboration between CNHDRC and GHD.