Original Article| Volume 63, ISSUE 5, P491-501, May 2010

AHRQ Series Paper 3: Identifying, selecting, and refining topics for comparative effectiveness systematic reviews: AHRQ and the Effective Health-Care program



      This article discusses the identification, selection, and refinement of topics for comparative effectiveness systematic reviews within the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Effective Health Care (EHC) program.

      Study Design and Setting

      The EHC program seeks to align its research topic selection with the overall goals of the program, impartially and consistently apply predefined criteria to potential topics, involve stakeholders to identify high-priority topics, be transparent and accountable, and continually evaluate and improve processes.


      A topic prioritization group representing stakeholder and scientific perspectives evaluates topic nominations that fit within the EHC program (are “appropriate”) to determine how “important” topics are as considered against seven criteria. The group then judges whether a new comparative effectiveness systematic review would be a duplication of existing research syntheses, and if not duplicative, if there is adequate type and volume of research to conduct a new systematic review. Finally, the group considers the “potential value and impact” of a comparative effectiveness systematic review.


      As the EHC program develops, ongoing challenges include ensuring the program addresses truly unmet needs for synthesized research because national and international efforts in this arena are uncoordinated, as well as engaging a range of stakeholders in program decisions while also achieving efficiency and timeliness.


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