Lessons learnt from conducting a living systematic review and network meta-analysis for covid-19: maximizing efficiency and access of results

Session Type
Oral presentation
Living syntheses and prospective meta-analyses
Ibrahim S1, Oliveros M1, Kum E1, Qasim A1, Martinez JPD1, Siemieniuk R1, Brignardello-Petersen R1
1Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact, McMaster University, Canada

Background: Traditional systematic reviews summarize the evidence relevant to a topic for a specific time frame. Living systematic reviews overcome this limitation by conducting ongoing searching and screening. In the context of the covid-19 pandemic, a living systematic review and network meta-analysis (SRNMA) was crucial to address the rapidly changing evidence base to identify effective interventions. However, living SRNMAs are a large undertaking requiring key considerations.
Objectives: To describe the process of conducting a living SRNMA including key lessons learnt from challenges encountered.
Methods: The living SRNMA is organized in four main subteams, each with their own team leads, who along with the principal investigators form the core team. Members of the core team reflected on their experiences through ongoing discussions with each other regarding the strengths and weaknesses of our review process. Based on the experiences shared, we identified any common, overarching themes until we reached consensus on what we considered to be key lessons learnt to date. We will share specific examples highlighting how this lesson is applied in practice.
Results: To date, four key themes emerged from our discussions: (1) Leverage technology to increase efficiency in stages such as study identification and data analysis. (2) Maintain detailed records to ensure the large amount of included studies and data remains organized. (3) Consider alternative dissemination strategies such as a website to streamline access to results and overcome publication delays. (4) Utilize the ongoing nature of such a large project as a chance to provide multiple learning opportunities for team members. Challenges encountered include turnover of team members and linkage of multiple records associated to the same trial. We will present the rationale and examples for each of these lessons.
Conclusions: Living systematic reviews ensure that evidence syntheses remain current and reflective of the most recent, relevant evidence. Such evidence syntheses can be crucial to decision-making in fields with rapidly growing and changing evidence bases. Conducting such reviews requires significant time, planning, and resources; we hope that sharing these four lessons may assist reviewers undertaking such a project.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: Patient partners were not involved.