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A practical guide for using a survey about attitudes and behaviors to inform health care decisions

  • Nancy Santesso
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author. Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, Health Sciences Centre, Rm 2C, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4L8, Canada. Tel.: +1 289 407 1505; fax: +1 905 522 9507.
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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  • Elie Akl
    Affiliations
    Department of Internal Medicine, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon
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  • Mohit Bhandari
    Affiliations
    Department of Surgery, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

    Department of Anesthesia, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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  • Jason W. Busse
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

    Department of Anesthesia, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

    Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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  • Deborah J. Cook
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

    Department of Critical Care, St Joseph's Healthcare, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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  • Trisha Greenhalgh
    Affiliations
    University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
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  • Paola Muti
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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  • Holger Schünemann
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

    Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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  • Gordon Guyatt
    Affiliations
    Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

    Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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Published:September 25, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2019.11.020

      Abstract

      Objectives

      Surveys can provide important information about what people think or do. There is little guidance about how to use surveys in decision-making. This article provides guidance for how to appraise and use a survey to answer health care questions.

      Study Design and Setting

      A guidance article about the use a survey of a selected sample of people, who completed a self-report tool about their knowledge, beliefs and opinions, behaviors and experiences, or personal attributes. We use survey examples, one scenario, and a specific survey for illustration.

      Results

      Decision makers should consider the credibility and applicability of the results of a survey. Key threats to credibility depend on the representativeness of the population and likelihood that it provides an accurate picture of the population's knowledge, attitudes, or self-reported practices. If survey investigators do not use rigorous strategies to develop or pretest questions, there is a greater risk that results will be misleading. Decision makers may want to consider the precision of estimates and whether it would change their decisions. Finally, they need to decide how similar the surveyed population is to their specific population before applying results.

      Conclusions

      Decision makers can follow this guidance to critically appraise, interpret, and apply the results of surveys to health care questions.

      Keywords

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