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Past speculations of the future: a review of the methods used for forecasting emerging health technologies
  1. Lucy Doos1,
  2. Claire Packer1,
  3. Derek Ward1,
  4. Sue Simpson1,
  5. Andrew Stevens2
  1. 1NIHR Horizon Scanning Research and Intelligence Centre, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lucy Doos; l.doos{at}


Objectives Forecasting can support rational decision-making around the introduction and use of emerging health technologies and prevent investment in technologies that have limited long-term potential. However, forecasting methods need to be credible. We performed a systematic search to identify the methods used in forecasting studies to predict future health technologies within a 3–20-year timeframe. Identification and retrospective assessment of such methods potentially offer a route to more reliable prediction.

Design Systematic search of the literature to identify studies reported on methods of forecasting in healthcare.

Participants People are not needed in this study.

Data sources The authors searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsychINFO and grey literature sources, and included articles published in English that reported their methods and a list of identified technologies.

Main outcome measure Studies reporting methods used to predict future health technologies within a 3–20-year timeframe with an identified list of individual healthcare technologies. Commercially sponsored reviews, long-term futurology studies (with over 20-year timeframes) and speculative editorials were excluded.

Results 15 studies met our inclusion criteria. Our results showed that the majority of studies (13/15) consulted experts either alone or in combination with other methods such as literature searching. Only 2 studies used more complex forecasting tools such as scenario building.

Conclusions The methodological fundamentals of formal 3–20-year prediction are consistent but vary in details. Further research needs to be conducted to ascertain if the predictions made were accurate and whether accuracy varies by the methods used or by the types of technologies identified.

  • Forecasting
  • health technology
  • innovations
  • methods
  • Systematic review

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:

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