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Impact of Systematic and Targeted Literature Reviews on Healthcare Research

What are systematic and targeted literature reviews in Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR)?

Systematic and Targeted Literature Reviews in Health Economics and Outcomes Research (HEOR) are rigorous and structured approaches used to synthesize existing evidence relevant to specific research questions within the field.Systematic reviews strive to thoroughly identify, evaluate, and synthesize all pertinent studies related to a specific topic, adhering to predefined protocols to uphold transparency and mitigate bias. Conversely, targeted literature reviews focus on specific aspects of a research question, providing a more focused analysis of the available evidence within a narrower scope.

How do systematic and targeted literature reviews differ?

Systematic literature reviews are characterized by their comprehensive nature, adhering to strict methodologies to systematically identify, evaluate, and synthesize all relevant studies on a given topic. These reviews follow predefined protocols, conduct exhaustive searches across multiple sources, and apply rigorous inclusion and exclusion criteria to ensure the reliability and validity of the findings. In contrast, targeted literature reviews have a narrower focus, concentrating on specific aspects of a research question without necessarily employing the same level of strictness in terms of inclusion criteria and study appraisal.

What is the purpose of a targeted literature review?

The primary purpose of a targeted literature review is to provide a focused analysis of the available evidence related to specific aspects of a research question. Unlike systematic reviews, which aim for comprehensive coverage of all relevant studies, targeted reviews hone in on particular dimensions or components of a topic to offer a more concentrated examination. By synthesizing key literature on specific facets of a research question, targeted reviews contribute valuable insights to inform decision-making and research endeavors within a specific area of interest.

What steps are typically involved in the process of conducting a systematic review?

Conducting a systematic literature review in research involves several sequential steps, including:

1. Formulating the research question:

Clearly define the research question, specifying the population, intervention, comparison, and outcomes (PICO/SPIDER framework may be used).

2. Developing inclusion and exclusion criteria:

Establish criteria for selecting studies based on predetermined parameters, such as study design, population characteristics, and outcome measures.

3. Searching for studies:

Conduct comprehensive searches across relevant databases and sources to identify all potentially eligible studies.

4. Screening titles and abstracts:

Screen retrieved citations to determine their relevance to the research question based on predefined criteria.

5. Full-text screening:

Evaluate the full texts of selected studies to determine their suitability for inclusion in the review.

6. Data extraction:

Systematically extract relevant data from included studies using a standardized approach.

7. Quality assessment:

Assess the methodological quality of included studies to gauge their risk of bias and reliability.

8. Data synthesis:

Analyze and synthesize extracted data to generate meaningful insights and conclusions.

9. Interpretation of results:

Interpret the findings of the systematic review in light of the research question and the quality of the evidence.

10. Reporting findings:

Prepare a comprehensive report of the systematic review findings, adhering to established reporting guidelines such as PRISMA.

What is the process of conducting a targeted literature review?

The steps involved in conducting a targeted literature review encompass the following key stages:

1. Articulating research questions:

Clearly define the specific research questions or objectives that the targeted review aims to address.

2. Creating a framework:

Develop a structured framework for organizing and analyzing relevant literature based on theoretical considerations and research objectives.

3. Selecting search databases:

Identify appropriate databases and sources for retrieving relevant literature aligned with the research questions.

4. Composing search strings:

Develop tailored search strings to effectively retrieve literature pertinent to the research questions while minimizing irrelevant results.

5. Establishing screening criteria:

Define specific criteria for screening retrieved literature to ensure alignment with the research objectives.

6. Performing searches and screening results:

Execute the literature search and systematically screen retrieved articles based on predefined criteria.

7. Confirming the body of evidence:

Validate the relevance and adequacy of the identified literature to address the research questions, making adjustments as necessary.

8. Setting up a coding spreadsheet:

Establish a systematic approach for coding and organizing information extracted from the selected literature.

9. Coding information from evidence:

Methodically extract and record relevant data from the literature using the established coding framework.

10. Analyzing findings:

Analyze coded data to identify patterns, themes, and insights relevant to the research questions.

11. Summarizing and reporting findings:

Summarize the key findings of the targeted literature review, organizing them within the predetermined framework and reporting them clearly and coherently.

What are the common challenges in conducting a systematic review?

Conducting a systematic review entails various challenges, including:

1. Resistance and adherence:

Encountering resistance to or difficulties in adhering to standardized review methodologies, potentially compromising the rigor and reliability of the review.

2. Identifying, appraising, and synthesizing research:

Facing challenges in identifying, critically appraising, and synthesizing primary research studies, particularly in fields such as implementation science where research methodologies may vary widely.

3. Logistics and coordination:

Managing the logistical aspects of conducting a systematic review, including coordination among review team members, communication, and collaboration, especially in geographically dispersed teams.

4. Human error:

Guarding against human errors such as duplicate references, transcription errors, and inadvertent inclusion/exclusion of studies, can undermine the integrity of the review process.

5. Lack of time:

Balancing the time-consuming nature of systematic review tasks, such as literature search, screening, and data extraction, with project timelines and resource constraints.

6. Efficiency in review processes:

Striving to optimize the efficiency of systematic review processes, often through the use of technological tools and automation, to enhance productivity and reduce workload burdens.

What are the benefits of conducting systematic and targeted literature reviews?

The benefits of conducting systematic and targeted literature reviews encompass:

1. Comprehensive evidence synthesis:

Systematic reviews enable thorough synthesis of all relevant empirical evidence on a given topic, providing a comprehensive understanding of research findings.

2. Reduced researcher bias:

By employing rigorous methodologies and predefined protocols, systematic reviews minimize implicit researcher bias, enhancing the objectivity and reliability of the synthesized evidence.

3. Improved quality and objectivity:

Systematic reviews contribute to the improvement of review quality through transparent methodologies, broader inclusion criteria, and greater objectivity in evidence synthesis.

4. Enhanced research impact:

High-quality literature reviews and systematic reviews are valued by clinicians, policymakers, and other stakeholders, enhancing the impact of research publications and guiding decision-making in diverse fields.

5. Clearer and objective answers:

Systematic reviews facilitate the generation of clearer, more objective answers to research questions by systematically deconstructing and synthesizing evidence from multiple studies.

6. Utility and flexibility:

While systematic reviews offer a structured approach to evidence synthesis, they also provide flexibility to tailor review processes to specific research questions, accommodating varying time and resource constraints.