Conducting systematic reviews is time-consuming but crucial to construct evidence-based patient decision aids, clinical practice guidelines and decision analyses. New methods might enable developers to produce a knowledge base more rapidly. However, trading off scientific rigour for speed when creating a knowledge base is controversial, and the consequences are insufficiently known. We developed and applied faster methods including systematic reviews and network meta-analyses, assessed their feasibility and compared them to a gold standard approach. We also assessed the feasibility of using decision analysis to perform this comparison.
Long-term treatment in bipolar disorder was our testing field. We developed two new methods: an empirically based, rapid network meta-analysis (NMA) and an expert NMA, and conducted a patient survey. We applied these methods to collect effect estimates for evidence-based treatments on outcomes important to patients. The relative importance of outcomes was obtained from patients using a stated preference method. We used multi-criteria decision analysis to compare a gold standard NMA with the rapid NMA in terms of the ability of the gold standard NMA to change the ranking and expected values of treatments for individual patients.
Using rapid methods, it was feasible to identify evidence addressing outcomes important to patients. We found that replacing effect estimates from our rapid NMA with estimates from the gold standard NMA resulted in relatively small changes in the ranking and expected value of treatments. The rapid method sufficed to estimate the effects of nine out of ten options. To produce a ranking of treatments accurate for more than 95% of patients, it was necessary to supplement systematic with rapid methods and to use relative importance weights in the analysis. Integrating estimates of the outcome “treatment burden” had a larger impact on rankings than replacing rapid with gold standard methods. Using patients’ importance weights only modestly affected results.
The transfer of knowledge to practice could benefit from faster systematic reviewing methods. The results in this preliminary assessment suggest that an improved rapid NMA approach might replace gold standard NMAs. Decision analysis could be used to compare evidence summarisation methods.
This item's license is: Attribution 4.0 International