The GRADE-CERQual iSoQ tool: a new online software for streamlining confidence assessments of qualitative evidence for decision-making
2Cochrane Person-Centre Care, Health Systems and Public Health Thematic Group, Department of Health Sciences, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway
3Cochrane Norway / Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway
4Epistemonikos Foundation, Santiago, Chile
People’s perspectives and experiences are at the heart of qualitative health research. Qualitative evidence synthesis (QES) is being used increasingly to synthesise primary qualitative studies to inform decisions that impact users of health and social services, especially around the acceptability and feasibility of health interventions and factors affecting their implementation. To use these findings from QES optimally, decision-makers need to know how much confidence to place in them. The GRADE-CERQual interactive Summary of Qualitative Findings (iSoQ) tool assists review authors in applying the GRADE-CERQual approach to assessing confidence.
Objectives: To develop an online tool (1) to assist review authors with applying the GRADE-CERQual approach to their QES findings and (2) to create an online database of QES findings and confidence assessments in order to facilitate access to this evidence.
Methods: Members of the GRADE-CERQual coordinating team worked with the Epistemonikos Foundation to create iSoQ. We used one-on-one user tests; pilot testing with review teams and in GRADE-CERQual training workshops; and, finally, a beta release period, to produce continuous feedback for designing the software.
Results: The interactive Summary of Qualitative Findings (iSoQ) tool v.1 was launched in March 2022. Ninety-four new accounts have since been created. The tool guides authors through the process of applying the GRADE-CERQual approach to the findings of their QES. This includes an assessment of the four GRADE-CERQual components (methodological limitations, coherence, adequacy and relevance), followed by a final overall assessment of confidence of high, moderate, low or very low confidence. In the iSoQ software, review authors complete a GRADE-CERQual Assessment Worksheet for each individual review finding to produce an Evidence Profile and a Summary of Qualitative Findings table. These tables are designed to package qualitative evidence and confidence assessments in a user-friendly way for decision-makers and other users. Review authors can publish their iSoQs to the open database, making their findings accessible, and the process for assessing confidence transparent, to decision-makers.
Conclusions: The new GRADE-CERQual iSoQ tool supports review authors to apply GRADE-CERQual and, in turn, provide decision-makers with evidence from qualitative research that they can use to inform decisions.