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This report is from AHRQ's Future Research Needs – Methods Research Series.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) through its Effective Health Care (EHC) Program partners with networks of researchers and clinical teams across North America, using input from stakeholders throughout the process of comparative effectiveness research, translation, dissemination, and implementation of research findings. The Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPCs) perform in-depth reviews of existing evidence. An important part of these reviews is to not only synthesize the evidence, but also identify the gaps in evidence that limited the ability to answer the systematic review questions. AHRQ supports EPCs to work with various stakeholders to further develop and prioritize the future research needed by decisionmakers. AHRQ has commissioned a series of methods papers to inform this activity.
Clearly defined criteria are integral to the future research needs (FRN) prioritization process. The objective of this paper is to propose preliminary criteria and a model worksheet that EPCs and stakeholders could use when identifying, developing, and prioritizing FRNs.
The EHC Program topic selection criteria were used as a starting point. The experiences and reports of eight EPCs that conducted pilot projects for FRN prioritization were then utilized to refine the criteria. A draft proposal for FRN prioritization criteria and methodology was developed and circulated to the eight EPCs; feedback further informed a series of iterations, leading to this document.
The 18 EHC Program topic selection criteria were modified by the 8 EPCs as part of their FRN pilot projects. Criteria that did not apply to future research needs were dropped. Criteria that were already met by default, due to requirements for the selection of the topic for the comparative effectiveness reviews and systematic reviews, were set aside. The remaining criteria were separated into two domains: potential value and probability of success (feasibility, likelihood, capacity). The process for FRN projects was refined. The potential value criteria would be utilized for stakeholder prioritization of FRNs. The probability of success criteria would be applied after the priority FRNs underwent study design consideration by the EPC. EPCs could work with stakeholders to prioritize research gaps that are not or have not been addressed but are of high potential value. After identifying these high-priority research needs, the EPC will consider the feasibility and capacity criteria when developing potential study designs.