New framework for a rapid approach to evidence synthesis

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Researchers have developed a new framework to streamline the evidence gathering process when assessing the effectiveness of healthcare innovations.

Health and social care organisations face the challenge of providing a high-quality service whilst operating with limited resources, so the implementation of effective and safe innovations, such as new treatments, tests, or improved working methods, is essential.

Innovations can have negative as well as positive effects or may make no difference. Evaluating their effectiveness and safety requires synthesising existing evidence, which can often be time-consuming and complex.

In response to this challenge, researchers from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration Greater Manchester (ARC-GM) and the University of Manchester have developed a new framework for a Rapid Evidence Synthesis (RES) approach.

Unlike a full systematic review, RES serves as a more streamlined and quicker alternative; it draws on evidence synthesis methods including the GRADE Evidence to Decision framework to provide rapid assessments of the existing evidence thereby maximising utility in a real-time decision-making context for healthcare innovations.

A recent paper published in Systematic Reviews outlines the RES approach.

Dr Gill Norman, Research Fellow at The University of Manchester and NIHR ARC-GM commented:

“RES uses evidence briefing methods in a transparent approach to supporting decision-making around innovation adoption, implementation and evaluation. It’s specifically designed for situations where directly relevant evidence may be limited – precisely because innovations are novel.  It’s a systematic, pragmatic and flexible way to identify and assess evidence for quality and relevance in a short timescale and it allows us to provide “good-enough” answers.”

The RES approach has been integrated into the decision-making processes of the Greater Manchester HIN, as part of Health Innovation Manchester (HInM). ARC-GM researchers provide RES support to a range of Greater Manchester health and social care providers and commissioners to support their decision-making.

Dave Boulger, Associate Director for Population Health at NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care, describes how the NIHR ARC-GM team are providing RES support to help inform the Greater Manchester 5-year Alcohol Strategy,

“Preventing alcohol-related harm is a highly complex task and at NHS GM we are committed to producing an evidence-based strategy and action plan in order to maximise the level of impact that we have. 

Working with the team to undertake a series of Rapid Evidence Syntheses will contribute towards us achieving that ambition by shining a spotlight on the most effective approaches to intervention, and the gaps that exist within the evidence base, against which we might want to undertake more detailed research. 

The team have been really positive and supportive, the production of the RES was very timely, and the quality of the work that has been produced has been professional and incredibly helpful.”

The researchers emphasise that their approach is not a substitute for a systematic review, but rather a method to assess the quality and relevance of evidence for effectiveness and safety of innovations more rapidly.

Many completed RES reports by the research team are freely available for download on the ARC-GM website

Read the paper in full:

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