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AHRQ releases nine new evidence reports, including one on methods used to rate the strength of scientific evidence

A new report sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality identifies and compares systems that rate the quality of evidence in individual research studies and compilations of studies addressing a common scientific issue. The report also presents guidance on the leading approaches currently in use for improving the quality of scientific evidence.

In 1999, Congress mandated AHRQ to identify and disseminate "methods or systems to rate the strength of the scientific evidence underlying health care practice, recommendations in the research literature, and technology assessments." To address this charge from Congress, AHRQ commissioned researchers at the Agency's Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) at RTI International—University of North Carolina to review these methods and systems and produce a report on their findings, Systems to Rate the Strength of Scientific Evidence.

In the review, EPC researchers identified 121 sources that deal with systems used to rate the quality of individual studies—systematic reviews, randomized clinical trials, observational studies, and studies of diagnostic tests—or to grade the strength of bodies of evidence, including 12 reports from AHRQ-supported EPCs. The investigators then evaluated the systems used to rate the quality of individual studies using criteria based on findings from previous studies and best practices from clinical research for each of the four study designs. The EPC researchers also evaluated the systems for grading the bodies of evidence using three criteria: quality, quantity, and consistency.

Using well-specified criteria, the researchers identified 19 study-quality and 7 strength-of-evidence grading systems that people conducting systematic reviews and technology assessments can use as starting points for future evidence-based research projects.

The full report, Systems to Rate the Strength of Scientific Evidence, Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 47 (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E016) and a report summary (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E015) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Select to access a summary of the report.

Eight other evidence reports were issued recently by AHRQ. Copies are available from the AHRQ Clearinghouse and online at the Agency's Web site. They provide organizations with comprehensive, science-based information on common, costly medical conditions and new health care technologies.

There are 13 active AHRQ-supported EPCs; they systematically review the relevant scientific literature on topics assigned to them by AHRQ and conduct additional analyses when appropriate prior to developing their reports and assessments. The goal is to inform health plans, providers, purchasers, and the health care system as a whole by providing essential information to improve health care quality. These evidence reports and summaries are available now from AHRQ, and most are also available online. The following list identifies the EPC that prepared each report.

Management of Chronic Asthma, Evidence Report No. 44. Blue Cross and Blue Shield Technology Evaluation Center (290-97-0015).

The report (AHRQ Publication No. 01-E044) and the summary (AHRQ Publication No. 01-E043) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Management of Neurogenic/Neuropathic Pain Following Spinal Cord Injury, Evidence Report No. 45. McMaster University EPC (contract 290-97-0017).

The report (AHRQ Publication No. 01-E063) and the summary (AHRQ Publication No. 01-E062) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse

Cardiovascular Effects of Epinephrine in Hypertensive Dental Patients, Evidence Report No. 48. Research Triangle Institute—University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill EPC (contract 290-97-0011).

The summary (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E005) is available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography, Evidence Report No. 50. Blue Cross/Blue Shield Technology Evaluation Center EPC (290-97-0015).

The summary (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E008) is available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Training of Clinicians for Public Health Events Relevant to Bioterrorism Preparedness, Evidence Report No. 51. Johns Hopkins University EPC (contract 290-97-0006).

The report (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E011) and summary (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E007) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Criteria for Determining Disability in Speech-Language Disorders, Evidence Report No. 52. Research Triangle Institute—University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill EPC (contract 290-97-0011).

The report (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E010) and the summary (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E009) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Management of Prolonged Pregnancy, Evidence Report No. 53. Duke University EPC (contract 290-97-0014).

The report (AHRQ Publication No. E018) and summary (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E012) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Management of Clinically Inapparent Adrenal Mass, Evidence Report No. 56. New England Medical Center EPC (contract 290-97-0019).

The report (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E014) and summary (AHRQ Publication No. 02-E013) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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