Improving the utility of evidence synthesis for decision makers in the face of insufficient evidence

M. Hassan Murad, Stephanie M. Chang, Celia V. Fiordalisi, Jennifer S. Lin, Timothy J. Wilt, Amy Y. Tsou, Brian Leas, Shazia Siddique, Andrew R. Zullo, Ethan M. Balk, Carolyn M. Rutter, Karen Robinson, Craig Coleman, Olivia Costa, Mark Helfand, Elizabeth Stoeger, Meera Viswanathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: To identify and suggest strategies to make insufficient evidence ratings in systematic reviews more actionable. Study Design and Setting: A workgroup comprising members from the Evidence-Based Practice (EPC) Program of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality convened throughout 2020. We conducted iterative discussions considering information from three data sources: a literature review for relevant publications and frameworks, a review of a convenience sample of past systematic reviews conducted by the EPCs, and an audit of methods used in past EPC technical briefs. Results: We identified five strategies for supplementing systematic review findings when evidence on benefits or harms is expected to be, or found to be, insufficient: 1) reconsider eligible study designs, 2) summarize indirect evidence, 3) summarize contextual and implementation evidence, 4) consider modelling, and 5) incorporate unpublished health system data in the evidence synthesis. While these strategies may not increase the strength of evidence, they may improve the utility of reports for decision makers. Adopting these strategies depends on feasibility, timeline, funding, and expertise of the systematic reviewers. Conclusion: Throughout the process of evidence synthesis of early scoping, protocol development, review conduct, and review presentation, authors can consider these five strategies to supplement evidence with insufficient rating to make it more actionable for end-users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-175
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Volume135
Early online dateMar 19 2021
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality through the following contracts: Scientific Resource Center (290-2017-00003-C), Mayo Clinic EPC (290-2015-00013-I), University of Minnesota EPC (290-2015-00008-I), Kaiser Permanente Research Affiliates EPC (290-2015-00007-I), RTI-University of North Carolina EPC (290-2015-00011-I), Southern California/RAND EPC (290-2015-00010-I), Brown University EPC (290-2015-00002-I), ECRI Institute-Penn Medicine EPC (290-2015-00005-I), University of Connecticut EPC (290-2015-00012-I), and Johns Hopkins University EPC (290-2015-00006-I). The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the authors, who are responsible for its contents; the findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. Therefore, no statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Funding Information:
Funding: This work was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality through the following contracts: Scientific Resource Center ( 290-2017-00003-C ), Mayo Clinic EPC ( 290-2015-00013-I ), University of Minnesota EPC ( 290-2015-00008-I ), Kaiser Permanente Research Affiliates EPC ( 290-2015-00007-I ), RTI- University of North Carolina EPC ( 290-2015-00011-I ), Southern California / RAND EPC ( 290-2015-00010-I ), Brown University EPC ( 290-2015-00002-I ), ECRI Institute-Penn Medicine EPC ( 290-2015-00005-I ), University of Connecticut EPC ( 290-2015-00012-I ), and Johns Hopkins University EPC ( 290-2015-00006-I ). The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the authors, who are responsible for its contents; the findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. Therefore, no statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors

Keywords

  • Decision-making
  • Health systems
  • Insufficient evidence
  • Systematic reviews
  • Translation

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

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