With heightened awareness of the value of patient and provider perspectives to decision making, Qualitative Evidence Synthesis (QES) is increasingly used within a health technology assessment (HTA) context. Acceptability, feasibility and implementation can all be addressed by synthesis of qualitative research. Concerns have been raised about the quality of the synthesis product, especially when conducted within a constrained time window. How can we test the validity of qualitative studies and assess confidence in synthesized qualitative findings, particularly when time is tight?
A brief examination of issues relating to production and use of QES identified from within the Canary Islands HTA agency will identify practical and methodological challenges. How can existing approaches address wider patient, social, organizational and ethical considerations that inform HTA? The potential for use of Evidence To Decision frameworks and approaches such as GRADE CERQual (a transparent method for assessing the confidence of evidence from reviews of qualitative research) will be briefly examined.
This presentation will identify potential gaps between the needs of a small HTA agency and the methodological support and tools required to address these gaps, based on experience of conducting QES to date. Issues identified are particularly relevant to other small HTA agencies but are also generalizable to larger agencies and guideline producers worldwide. Pragmatic solutions are suggested. A future research agenda for potential methodological and applied research is outlined and current GRADE-CERQual development initiatives briefly shared.
Despite significant progress in developing methodologies for integrating QES within HTA decision making, substantive challenges remain. Observations derived from this small HTA agency can inform further developments across all HTA organizations. Research is required to examine the impact of potential dissemination bias, application of tools across a wider HTA decision making framework and use of rigorous approaches within a time-limited evaluation window.