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Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Public comments on EPC Report "Systems to Rate the Strength of 
Scientific Evidence"

AGENCY: The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), HHS.

ACTION: Request for public comments.


SUMMARY: To inform its response to a legislative mandate to develop and 
disseminate methods or systems to rate scientific evidence found in 
health care research studies (see Background section, below), AHRQ 
commissioned the Research Triangle Institute-University of North 
Carolina Evidence-based Practice Center (RTI/UNC EPC) to undertake a 
study on systems to rate the quality of scientific evidence. The goals 
of the EPC study were to describe systems to rate the strength of 
scientific evidence, including evaluating the quality of individual 
articles that make up a body of evidence on a specific scientific 
question in health care, and to provide some guidance as to current 
"best practices" with respect to rating scientific evidence regrading 
a particular clinical treatment or technology.
    The RTI/UNC EPC completed their study and submitted to AHRQ the 
report "Systems to Rate the Strength of Scientific Evidence". The 
report includes the EPC's methodological approach (e.g., search 
strategy, data collection, analysis of findings) and discusses 
identification of systems, factors important in developing and using 
rating systems, and a "best practices" orientation to selecting 
systems for use. The report also includes recommendations for future 
    The comprehensive report "Systems to Rate the strength of 
Scientific Evidence, is available on AHRQ's Web page at The report also is 
available, without charge, from the AHRQ Clearinghouse by calling 
    There are a variety of audiences for the guidance that the Agency 
will disseminate on this subject, who we hope will be interested in 
evaluating the usefulness of this EPC report for their purposes and who 
will also describe the type of guidance that would be most helpful to 
them. Obtaining comment on how the AHRQ can best fulfill its 
legislative mandate to identify and disseminate guidance on systems to 
rate the strength of scientific evidence, is essential to fulfill its 
commitment to inform all segments of the health care community. We are 
interested in receiving comments on the report's overall clarity, 
usefulness, and thoroughness, and we also welcome suggestions on the 
type of guidance that would be most helpful to researchers, 
policymakers, provider systems, professional societies, practitioners, 
patients, and others. For example, what do professional societies, 
practitioners, payors, policymakers need to know about grading 
scientific evidence? What parts of the EPC report will be used in day-
to-day health care decision making? Is some part this information 
useful to patients? What are the most useful format(s) for the guidance 
that AHRQ should use for its dissemination strategy with particular 
audiences or users?

DATES: For particular audiences or uses, or explanation of particular 
rating systems to be considered for incorporation and discussion in the 
guidance AHRQ will provide in the near future in accordance with its 
legislative mandate, written comments must be received by August 22, 
2002. Comments should be sent to Jacqueline Besteman (e-mail attached 
file preferred), at; or faxed to 301-594-4027.

Director, EPC Program, Center for Practice and Technology Assessment 
AHRQ, 6010 executive Blvd., Suite 300, Rockville, MD 20852; Phone: 
(301) 594-4017; Fax: (301) 594-4027; e-mail:



    AHRQ is the lead Federal agency for enhancing the quality, 
appropriateness, and effectiveness of healthcare services and access to 
such services. In carrying out this mission, AHRQ conducts and funds 
research that develops and presents evidence-based information on 
healthcare outcomes, quality, cost, use and access. Included in AHRQ's 
legislative mandate is support of syntheses of scientific clinical and 
behavioral studies on particular treatments and technologies, and wide-
spread dissemination of the resultant evidence reports and technology 
assessments. The mandate includes dissemination of guidance on methods 
or systems for rating the strength of scientific evidence. These 
research findings, syntheses, and guidance are intended to assist 
providers, clinicians, payers, patients, and policymakers in making 
evidence-based decisions

[[Page 36607]]

regarding the quality and effectiveness of health care.
    Section 911(a), part B, Title IX, Healthcare Research and Quality 
Act of 1999, requires in part that AHRQ, in collaboration with experts 
from the public and private sectors, identify methods or systems to 
assess health care research results, particularly "methods or systems 
to rate the strength of the scientific evidence underlying health care 
practice, recommendations in the research literature, and technology 
assessments." The Agency is to make methods or systems for rating 
evidence, widely available. To inform its response to this mandate, 
AHRQ invites public comments on the RTI/UNC EPC study noted above.

    Dated: May 17, 2002.
Carolyn M. Clancy,
Acting Director.
[FR Doc. 02-13152 Filed 5-23-02; 8:45 am]

[Federal Register: May 24, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 101)]
[Page 36607]
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