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Assessing the Impact of AHRQ Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) Reports on Future Research

Research Report

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This report is from AHRQ's Future Research Needs – Methods Research Series.

Structured Abstract

Objectives

To evaluate the impact of EPC systematic reviews on solicited or funded research and to identify barriers and facilitators to the impact of these documents on future research.

Data Sources

ISI Web of Science, MEDLINE®, reviews of citations from updated systematic reviews, National Institutes of Health Guide for Grants and Contracts Web site, key informant interviews, and data from AHRQ on dissemination.

Methods

We selected two systematic reviews as case studies to evaluate their impact on future research. We identified key citations generated by these reports and traced forward to identify their impact on subsequent studies through citation analysis. We reviewed requests for application and program announcements and dissemination data from AHRQ to identify impact. We conducted interviews with 13 key informants to help identify short-, medium-and long-term impacts of the EPC reports.

Results

The impact of the selected EPC case studies is demonstrably greater on short-term outcomes( greater awareness of the issues)than on medium-term (such as the generation of new knowledge) or long-term outcomes (such as changes in patient practice or health outcomes). The extent of impact of an EPC report varies based on factors such as the topic and the timing of the report relative to the development of the field. The degree to which the new research can be directly attributed to the AHRQ reports remains unclear. Key informants discussed several benefits stemming from the EPC reports, including providing a foundation for the research community on which to build, heightening awareness of the gaps in knowledge, increasing the quality of research, and sparking new directions of research. However, the degree to which these reports were influential and well received hinged on several factors including marketing efforts, the very nature of the reports, and other influences external to the EPC domain.

Conclusions

Our findings illustrate the importance of the breadth, specificity, and readiness of the topic for more research; ongoing developments in the field; availability of funding; and active engagement of champions. AHRQ and the EPCs may be able to improve the likelihood of impact by creating more targeted products, planning for and expanding dissemination activities, improving the readability and other attributes of the reports themselves, and actively involving funders early on and throughout the process of creating and publishing the reviews.