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      Rapid review programs to support health care and policy decision making: a descriptive analysis of processes and methods


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          Health care decision makers often need to make decisions in limited timeframes and cannot await the completion of a full evidence review. Rapid reviews (RRs), utilizing streamlined systematic review methods, are increasingly being used to synthesize the evidence with a shorter turnaround time. Our primary objective was to describe the processes and methods used internationally to produce RRs. In addition, we sought to understand the underlying themes associated with these programs.


          We contacted representatives of international RR programs from a broad realm in health care to gather information about the methods and processes used to produce RRs. The responses were summarized narratively to understand the characteristics associated with their processes and methods. The summaries were compared and contrasted to highlight potential themes and trends related to the different RR programs.


          Twenty-nine international RR programs were included in our sample with a broad organizational representation from academia, government, research institutions, and non-for-profit organizations. Responses revealed that the main objectives for RRs were to inform decision making with regards to funding health care technologies, services and policy, and program development. Central themes that influenced the methods used by RR programs, and report type and dissemination were the imposed turnaround time to complete a report, resources available, the complexity and sensitivity of the research topics, and permission from the requestor.


          Our study confirmed that there is no standard approach to conduct RRs. Differences in processes and methods across programs may be the result of the novelty of RR methods versus other types of evidence syntheses, customization of RRs for various decision makers, and definition of ‘rapid’ by organizations, since it impacts both the timelines and the evidence synthesis methods. Future research should investigate the impact of current RR methods and reporting to support informed health care decision making, the effects of potential biases that may be introduced with streamlined methods, and the effectiveness of RR reporting guidelines on transparency.

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          The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13643-015-0022-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          What is a rapid review? A methodological exploration of rapid reviews in Health Technology Assessments.

          Commissioners of Health Technology Assessments require timely reviews to attain efficacious decisions on healthcare and treatments. In recent years, there has been an emergence of 'rapid reviews' within Health Technology Assessments; however, there is no known published guidance or agreed methodology within recognised systematic review or Health Technology Assessment guidelines. In order to answer the research question 'What is a rapid review and is methodology consistent in rapid reviews of Health Technology Assessments?', a study was undertaken in a sample of rapid review Health Technology Assessments from the Health Technology Assessment database within the Cochrane Library and other specialised Health Technology Assessment databases to investigate similarities and/or differences in rapid review methodology utilised. In a targeted search to obtain a manageable sample of rapid reviews, the Health Technology Assessment database of The Cochrane Library and six international Health Technology Assessment databases were searched to locate rapid review Health Technology Assessments from 2000 onwards. Each rapid review was examined to investigate the individual methodology used for searching, inclusion screening, quality assessment, data extraction and synthesis. Methods of each rapid review were compared to investigate differences and/or similarities in methodologies used, in comparison with recognised methods for systematic reviews. Forty-six full rapid reviews and three extractable summaries of rapid reviews were included. There was a wide diversity of methodology, with some reviews utilising well-established systematic review methods, but many others diversifying in one or more areas, that is searching, inclusion screening, quality assessment, data extraction, synthesis methods, report structure and number of reviewers. There was a significant positive correlation between the number of recommended review methodologies utilised and length of time taken in months. Despite the number of rapid reviews published within Health Technology Assessments over recent years, there is no agreed and tested methodology and it is unclear how rapid reviews differ from systematic reviews. In a sample of Health Technology Assessment rapid reviews from 2000 to 2011, there was a wide diversity of methodology utilised in all aspects of rapid reviews. There is scope for wider research in this area to investigate the diversity of methods in more depth during each stage of the rapid review process, so that eventually recommendations could be made for clear and systematic methods for rapid reviews, thus facilitating equity and credibility of this type of important review methodology. © 2012 The Authors. International Journal of Evidence-Based Healthcare © 2012 The Joanna Briggs Institute.
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            The use and impact of rapid health technology assessments.

            To consider the impact of rapid health technology assessments undertaken as part of a program in a provincial healthcare system in response to urgent requests for advice. Review of the development and preparation of 20 rapid assessment reports, communication with decision makers within the healthcare system, and appraisal of data subsequent to preparation of the reports. Fourteen of the assessments were judged to have had an influence on policy and other decisions, as judged by responses from those who had requested advice. Another four were considered to have provided guidance, while having less immediate influence on decisions, and two others had no apparent impact. Quality of the assessments was considered acceptable, on the basis of literature that subsequently became available and from comments received. These brief reports are considered to be a useful component of a health technology assessment program. However, they should be regarded as provisional appraisals and followed up with more detailed evaluation where possible.

              Author and article information

              Syst Rev
              Syst Rev
              Systematic Reviews
              BioMed Central (London )
              14 March 2015
              14 March 2015
              : 4
              : 26
              [ ]Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health, 600-865 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5S8 Canada
              [ ]Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, 451 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8 M5 Canada
              [ ]Knowledge Synthesis Group, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, 501 Smyth Road, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 8 L6 Canada
              [ ]George and Fay Yee Centre for Healthcare Innovation, University of Manitoba/Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, GE-706 – 820 Sherbrook Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3A 1R9 Canada
              © Polisena et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

              This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

              : 18 August 2014
              : 26 February 2015
              Custom metadata
              © The Author(s) 2015

              Public health
              rapid views,systematic reviews,evidence synthesis,health care decision making
              Public health
              rapid views, systematic reviews, evidence synthesis, health care decision making


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