Identifying evidence to inform the development of decision-analytic models

Funding: Department of Health Personal Award Scheme
Award Holder: Suzy Paisley
Dates: 2003-2008 (part-time)


To develop a systematic approach to searching for evidence to inform the development of decision-analytic models.


A key element of systematic reviews and decision-analytic modelling is the process of identifying appropriate evidence in order to reduce bias and uncertainty in the assessment of effectiveness.

Methodological standards for undertaking systematic reviews provide guidance, underpinned by empirical research, on how to search for evidence. Whilst the approach to searching to inform models should be very different from that for systematic reviews, equivalent evidence-based search guidance has not been developed.

Existing good practice guidelines for modelling and for health technology assessment (HTA) stress the importance of incorporating appropriate data. However, guidance on the actual process of data identification is limited to only a few guidelines. Moreover, where this guidance is made explicit, it is brief to the point of being inoperable.

The development of effective search standards for decision-analytic models would bridge a gap in the current methodological guidance. As a consequence the rigour and transparency of assessments used in policy decision-making would be improved.

The aim of this project is to define the requirements of a systematic approach which would allow the planning, execution, management and recording of searches to support decision-analytic models.


Phase one: Understanding search processes

Participant observation of a heath technology assessment project. The aims of phase one are to assess how and what evidence is used in the model development process and to establish how the model development process might impact on the approach to searching.

Phase two: Developing the search approach

Development of a systematic approach to searching based on the findings of phase one. The process of development includes consideration of how the effectiveness of the search approach should be evaluated. The feasibility of the systematic search approach is evaluated in a second health technology assessment project.

Phase three: Evaluating the search approach

Where phase two focuses on evaluation in terms of process or workability, evaluation of the search approach in phase three focuses on outcome measures including sensitivity, efficiency and reproducibility.

Further information

A presentation on the background to this project was given at two day meeting of the Consensus Working Group on the Use of Evidence in Economic Decision Models. The meeting was funded by the MRC HSRC Workshop Awards Scheme


For further information on this project please contact the award holder, Suzy Paisley.