Background: the assessment of healthcare-related tests and diagnostic strategies has arisen as a critical issue for healthcare decision making. Full systematic reviews have been the leading approach to synthesizing healthcare evidence to be used by clinicians, patients and stakeholders. Rapid reviews have emerged as a potentially pragmatic and efficient alternative to systematic reviews for high-priority issues. Although rapid reviews of interventions have been extensively evaluated, at present very little is known of the characteristics of rapid reviews of medical tests.
Methods: we conducted a scoping review to identify and describe rapid reviews of medical tests, regardless of purpose and setting, published from 2013 to 2018. We searched 1) institutional websites of knowledge synthesis developers; and 2) bibliographic databases (MEDLINE and Embase). We collected general review characteristics, as well as methods used for rapid assessment of the evidence. We performed analyses using STATA 15.0®.
Results: we included 191 rapid reviews in our study. Included reviews were developed by large teams (median of 6.5 to 7 authors), within a short timeframe (all less than 12 months), and reported in a limited number of pages (fewer than 10 pages). The scope of the rapid reviews covered multiple index tests (44.4%), attempted the assessment of multiple outcomes (two or more outcomes = 88.5%) and addressed multiple applications (29.3%). We observed that well-known methodological tailoring strategies were not extensively applied. Although poor reporting of some key strategies limits complete evaluation of the methods used, assessed rapid reviews have characteristics comparable to broader knowledge syntheses.
Conclusion: our scoping review is the first that attempts to explore the characteristics and methods used in the development of rapid knowledge syntheses of medical tests. Further efforts are needed to identify the most appropriate methodological framework for conducting rapid reviews addressing diagnostic evidence.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: the assessment of methods currently used by rapid review developers promotes timely access to the evidence for clinicians, patients, consumers and decision makers