HEDS – Systematic Review – Methodological Work

As well as undertaking systematic reviews of a wide range of evidence types and in an extensive range of topic areas, methodological developments are also a vital part of our work programme. This ensures that we not only constantly learn and improve the standard of the work we do but also maintain a dynamic and stimulating environment for staff and students. The methodological research in systematic reviewing we undertake is vital not only to our existing work but to ensuring our future work remains responsive to the needs of commissioners and decision makers and is of the highest quality. Our goal, ultimately, is to ensure the best and most cost-effective care for health care users.

Identifying evidence

Current and on-going areas of methodological development span across the whole review process. Within HEDS, a team of world leading information specialists continue to pioneer and lead developments in the identification and retrieval of evidence. This work includes methods to improve the accuracy and efficiency of identifying evidence, particularly in areas where indexing of work or the breadth of the research question makes identification of the relevant literature challenging. New methods to identify qualitative studies are currently being tested and evaluated.

Cost effectiveness modelling

Systematic reviewers within HEDS work in partnership with mathematical modellers and health economists. Cost effectiveness modelling is often carried out alongside the evaluation of clinical effectiveness or diagnostic accuracy. The collaborative nature of this work, has also led to innovations in methods to identify and review evidence to support cost effectiveness modelling.

Evidence synthesis

Methods to synthesise diverse and often limited evidence to support decision makers in useful ways is both a requirement and a goal for systematic reviewers working within HEDS. This has led to methodological research, exploring methods to synthesis qualitative research, how to integrate both qualitative and quantitative research and how to use quality assessment in the interpretation of findings. This work has led to changes in practice, and research findings have been disseminated both at conferences and in publications.

In collaboration with statisticians, development of methods to integrate data using Bayesian techniques, is also in progress. The synthesis of patient reported outcomes and the impact of bias on quantitative synthesis of data is also a current area of work. Systematic reviewers work closely with staff in other sections of ScHARR including Public Health and Health Services Research, as well as the Clinical Trials Research Unit. This exchange of ideas and expertise has led to on-going collaborations in methodological work, including the use of logic models in evidence synthesis.