When patients, clinicians, or other healthcare stakeholders raise a question that doesn’t already have an evidence-based answer, sometimes new research is needed to answer it. But in other cases, a careful look at results from research studies already completed can more quickly provide findings that patients and those who care for them can use to make informed choices.
PCORI’s Evidence Synthesis Initiative takes that approach. The program includes rigorous reviews of the best evidence available on topics of critical concern to patients and other healthcare stakeholders. The goal is to synthesize all relevant completed studies on a particular clinical question in order to provide evidence that is stronger and more certain than the results of the individual studies.
Our Evidence Synthesis Initiative falls within our broader research synthesis efforts, which take advantage of a wide variety of tools to pull together and analyze results for public use. We are using two key approaches. One is conducting systematic reviews of results of already completed comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies and other methodologic approaches that share an underlying foundational method on topics of critical concern to patients and other healthcare stakeholders. The other is reanalyzing data from already completed studies to discover which specific patient groups gain the most or least benefits—or are at greater or lesser risk for harms—from an intervention. Once we have synthesized the evidence, we will disseminate it through products, below, that are designed to meet the needs of our various stakeholder groups.
The most common type of evidence synthesis is the systematic review, which features a set of clearly specified, rigorous, reproducible, and transparent methods.
Evidence maps and evidence visualizations are visual evidence synthesis products, which take complex data from health studies and present this data visually, to make the data easier to understand and use.
A meta-analysis typically summarizes the average treatment effect for the entire study population using statistical methods.
The reports offer summaries of evidence supporting new drugs, devices, and other healthcare technologies that are in use or may be available soon in the United States.
The Health Care Horizon Scanning System provides a systematic process to identify healthcare interventions that have high potential to alter the current standard of care.
There are other approaches that can be helpful in studies with a diverse group of people and a wide range in individual responses to an intervention.