Evaluation of the Interim Cochrane Rapid Review Methods guidance – a mixed-methods study on the understanding of and adherence to the guidance
2Department for Evidence-based Medicine and Evaluation, Faculty of Health and Medicine, University of Krems, Krems a.d. Donau, Austria, Austria
3Department for Evidence-based Medicine and Evaluation, University of Krems, Krems a.d. Donau, Austria and Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK, Austria
The Cochrane Rapid Review Methods Group (RRMG) developed interim guidance to support authors in conducting rapid reviews (RRs). The objective of this mixed-methods study was to assess the adherence to and usability of this guidance. We also explored why some Cochrane authors of COVID-19–related reviews preferred doing a full systematic review (SR) over an RR (see published protocol: https://osf.io/3a8zb).
Methods: We identified all reviews citing the Interim Cochrane RRMG guidance up to February 17, 2022, and performed an exploratory adherence analysis. We interviewed 20 RR authors to assess the comprehensibility of recommendations and reasons for any deviations. Further, we surveyed nine authors of COVID-19–related full SR.
Results: We analyzed 128 RRs (111 non-Cochrane, 17 Cochrane) citing the Interim Cochrane RRMG guidance. Several recommendations were not followed by a large proportion of RR authors, whereas in some cases, full SR methodology was used instead of recommended abbreviations. The recommendations that were not followed by the most-analyzed RRs were the stepwise approach to study design inclusion (97%), limiting the number of outcomes (88%), and peer review of at least one search strategy (88%). The rationale for using a standardized title and abstract form was not obvious to some RR authors, and 39%/45% preferred dual independent screening of abstracts/full texts over screening only excludes dually. The most reported reasons for deviating from the guidance were time constraints, unclarities in the recommended approach, or inapplicability to the specific RR. Overall, the guidance was viewed as user-friendly. However, without pre-existing experience of SR conduct, applying the guidance was perceived as difficult. The main reasons for conducting a full COVID-19–related SR over an RR despite the time pressure during the pandemic were late availability of the guidance, preset mandate to conduct an SR, lack of methodological clarity, and inapplicability to the evidence base.
Conclusions: Clarifications are warranted throughout the Interim Cochrane RRMG guidance to ensure that users with various experience levels can understand and apply its recommendations accordingly.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: We interviewed RRMG guidance users for feedback on its comprehensibility and usability to improve the interim guidance.