Objectives: This review assessed current practice in the preparation of rapid reviews by health technology assessment (HTA) organizations, both internationally and in the Australian context, and evaluated the available peer-reviewed literature pertaining to the methodology used in the preparation of these reviews.
Methods: A survey tool was developed and distributed to a total of fifty International Network of Agencies for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) members and other selected HTA organizations. Data on a broad range of themes related to the conduct of rapid reviews were collated, discussed narratively, and subjected to simple statistical analysis where appropriate. Systematic searches of the Cochrane Library, EMBASE, MEDLINE, and the Australian Medical Index were undertaken in March 2007 to identify literature pertaining to rapid review methodology. Comparative studies, guidelines, program evaluations, methods studies, commentaries, and surveys were considered for inclusion.
Results: Twenty-three surveys were returned (46 percent), with eighteen agencies reporting on thirty-six rapid review products. Axiomatic trends were identified, but there was little cohesion between organizations regarding the contents, methods, and definition of a rapid review. The twelve studies identified by the systematic literature search did not specifically address the methodology underpinning rapid review; rather, many highlighted the complexity of the area. Authors suggested restricted research questions and truncated search strategies as methods to limit the time taken to complete a review.
Conclusions: Rather than developing a formalized methodology by which to conduct rapid reviews, agencies should work toward increasing the transparency of the methods used for each review. It is perhaps the appropriate use, not the appropriate methodology, of a rapid review that requires future consideration.