An international survey and modified Delphi approach revealed numerous rapid review methods. Tricco AC et al. J Clin Epidemiol. 2016 Feb;70:61-7.
This was actually published, ahead of schedule, in August last year, but the official citation is for 2016. So far, the first paper on rapid reviews that I’ve found. The objectives of the study are:
“To solicit experiences with and perceptions of rapid reviews from stakeholders, including researchers, policy makers, industry, journal editors, and health care providers”
In the introduction the paper reports:
“A formal definition of a rapid review does not exist. However, one definition that has been proposed is ‘a rapid review is a type of knowledge synthesis in which components of the systematic review process are simplified or omitted to produce information in a shorter period of time’”
This is not a core part of the paper but I post it here as it’s something that I feel needs comment. The definition doesn’t really cover rapid reviews, as I envisage them. In my post Different approaches to rapidity I highlight two main approaches to the rapid review process. The above definition seems to fit squarely in the first, process-focussed, method and less so the latter, outcome-focussed, approach. Perhaps a small point but I didn’t want it to pass without comment!
This paper is a really important overview of the current rapid review ‘scene’ in relation to methods and quality. The main highlights (reproduced under the ‘fair use’ principle) are:
Eighty-eight rapid review products reporting numerous streamlined methods were identified. More than 30 different terms were used to describe a rapid review. The primary rationale for conducting a rapid review was the decision makers’ need for timely access to information. The commissioning agency was often a government agency or health care organization. Through the modified Delphi approach, different issues related to rapid reviews were identified and one rapid review approach (search limited by date and language; study selection by one reviewer only, and data abstraction and quality appraisal conducted by one reviewer and one verifier) was ranked the highest compared to the others, suggesting that some streamlined steps might be more desirable than others.
What this adds to what was known?
This research provides up-to-date information on the experiences and perceptions of a range of stakeholders regarding rapid reviews.
What is the implication and what should change now?
Numerous knowledge synthesis centers are conducting rapid reviews internationally, yet few studies have evaluated the accuracy, comprehensiveness, potential risk of bias, timeliness, and feasibility of rapid review approaches.
Further research on rapid reviews is warranted, such as the development of formal method guidance for rapid reviews and a prospective study comparing the results of rapid reviews to those obtained through systematic reviews on the same topic is necessary.
But read the full-paper, loads to look at and digest. Alas it has that ‘further research is warranted‘ comment, but then no paper’s perfect!