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The US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) program sponsors the development of systematic reviews to inform clinical policy and practice. The EPC program sought to better understand how health systems identify and use this evidence.
Representatives from eleven EPCs, the EPC Scientific Resource Center, and AHRQ developed a semi-structured interview script to query a diverse group of nine Key Informants (KIs) involved in health system quality, safety and process improvement about how they identify and use evidence. Interviews were transcribed and qualitatively summarized into key themes.
All KIs reported that their organizations have either centralized quality, safety, and process improvement functions within their system, or they have partnerships with other organizations to conduct this work. There was variation in how evidence was identified, with larger health systems having medical librarians and central bureaus to gather and disseminate information and smaller systems having local chief medical officers or individual clinicians do this work. KIs generally prefer guidelines, especially those with treatment algorithms, because they are actionable. They like systematic reviews because they efficiently condense study results and reconcile conflicting data. They prefer information from systematic reviews to be presented as short digestible summaries with the full report available on demand. KIs preferred systematic reviews from reputable entities and those without commercial bias. Some of the challenges KIs reported include how to resolve conflicting evidence, the generalizability of evidence to local needs, determining whether the evidence is up-to-date, and the length of time required to generate reviews. The topics of greatest interest included predictive analytics, high-value care, advance care planning, and care coordination. To increase awareness of AHRQ EPC reviews, KIs suggest alerting people at multiple levels in a health-system when new evidence reports are available and making reports easier to find in common search engines.
Systematic reviews are valued by health system leaders. To be most useful they should be easy to locate and available in different formats targeted to the needs of different audiences.