AHRQ Series Paper 3: Identifying, selecting, and refining topics for comparative effectiveness systematic reviews: AHRQ and the Effective Health-Care program

Evelyn P. Whitlock, Sarah A. Lopez, Stephanie Chang, Mark Helfand, Michelle Eder, Nicole Floyd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

61 Scopus citations


Objective: This article discusses the identification, selection, and refinement of topics for comparative effectiveness systematic reviews within the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Effective Health Care (EHC) program. Study Design and Setting: The EHC program seeks to align its research topic selection with the overall goals of the program, impartially and consistently apply predefined criteria to potential topics, involve stakeholders to identify high-priority topics, be transparent and accountable, and continually evaluate and improve processes. Results: A topic prioritization group representing stakeholder and scientific perspectives evaluates topic nominations that fit within the EHC program (are "appropriate") to determine how "important" topics are as considered against seven criteria. The group then judges whether a new comparative effectiveness systematic review would be a duplication of existing research syntheses, and if not duplicative, if there is adequate type and volume of research to conduct a new systematic review. Finally, the group considers the "potential value and impact" of a comparative effectiveness systematic review. Conclusion: As the EHC program develops, ongoing challenges include ensuring the program addresses truly unmet needs for synthesized research because national and international efforts in this arena are uncoordinated, as well as engaging a range of stakeholders in program decisions while also achieving efficiency and timeliness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)491-501
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Epidemiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2010



  • Comparative effectiveness
  • Decision making
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Methods
  • Priority setting
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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