Rapid evidence assessment: increasing the transparency of an emerging methodology

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Abstract

Rationale, aims and objectives

Within the field of evidence-based practice, policy makers, health care professionals and consumers require timely reviews to inform decisions on efficacious health care and treatments. Rapid evidence assessment (REA), also known as rapid review, has emerged in recent years as a literature review methodology that fulfils this need. It highlights what is known in a clinical area to the target audience in a relatively short time frame.

Methods

This article discusses the lack of transparency and limited critical appraisal that can occur in REA, and goes on to propose general principles for conducting a REA. The approach that we describe is consistent with the principles underlying systematic review methodology, but also makes allowances for the rapid delivery of information as required while utilizing explicit and reproducible methods at each stage.

Results

Our method for conducting REA includes: developing an explicit research question in consultation with the end-users; clear definition of the components of the research question; development of a thorough and reproducible search strategy; development of explicit evidence selection criteria; and quality assessments and transparent decisions about the level of information to be obtained from each study. In addition, the REA may also include an assessment of the quality of the total body of evidence.

Conclusions

Transparent reporting of REA methodologies will provide greater clarity to end-users about how the information is obtained and about the trade-offs that are made between speed and rigour.

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