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Defining the benefits and challenges of stakeholder engagement in systematic reviews

Authors Cottrell E, Whitlock E, Kato E, Uhl S, Belinson S, Chang C, Hoomans T, Meltzer D, Noorani H, Robinson K, Motu'apuaka M, Anderson J, Paynter R, Guise J

Received 18 June 2014

Accepted for publication 19 August 2014

Published 16 April 2015 Volume 2015:5 Pages 13—19

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CER.S69605

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Corrine Voils


Erika K Cottrell,1 Evelyn P Whitlock,2 Elisabeth Kato,3 Stacey Uhl,4 Suzanne Belinson,5 Christine Chang,3 Ties Hoomans,5,6 David O Meltzer,5,7 Hussein Noorani,5 Karen A Robinson,8 Makalapua Motu'apuaka,9 Johanna Anderson,9 Robin A Paynter,9 Jeanne-Marie Guise9

1Oregon Health and Sciences University, Portland, OR, USA; 2Kaiser Evidence-based Practice Center, Portland, OR, USA; 3Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD, USA; 4ECRI-Penn Evidence-based Practice Center, Plymouth Meeting, PA, USA; 5Office of Clinical Affairs, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Chicago, IL, USA; 6Institute of Health Policy and Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; 7University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA; 8Johns Hopkins University Evidence-based Practice Center, Baltimore, MD, USA; 9Scientific Resource Center for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Effective Health Care Program, Portland Veterans Affairs (VA) Research Foundation, Portland VA Medical Center, Portland, OR, USA

Background: Although there is a growing literature on the process of engaging stakeholders in medical research, there are a lack of clearly-defined measures for reporting and evaluation, which limits the ability to learn from past experience, understand the effectiveness of engagement, or identify which approaches work best. Clearly defining the benefits and challenges of engaging stakeholders in the systematic review process is an integral first step toward developing a set of criteria that can be used to evaluate the impact and effectiveness on the conduct, quality, and dissemination of systematic reviews.
Methods: We utilized two complementary approaches to examine the benefits and challenges of engaging stakeholders in the systematic review process: 1) a literature scan to understand the overall state of the field; and 2) a series of key informant interviews with systematic reviewers, program/policy officials, and stakeholders.
Results: We identified six main expected benefits and five primary challenges of involving stakeholders in systematic reviews. Benefits included: establishing credibility; anticipating controversy; ensuring transparency and accountability; improving relevance; enhancing quality; and increasing dissemination and uptake of findings. Challenges included: time; training and resources; finding the right people; balancing multiple inputs; and understanding how to match the right type of stakeholder to the right time in the systematic review process.
Discussion: The results of this study are an important first step toward developing mechanisms for evaluating the effectiveness of stakeholder engagement in systematic reviews. Future work should seek both to verify the appropriateness of these benefits and challenges and identify concrete criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of different methods, timing, and intensity of stakeholder engagement.

Keywords: stakeholder, medical research, key informants, AHRQ, Effective Health Care Program, evidence based medicine

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