Qualitative Evidence Synthesis (QES) for Guidelines: Paper 3 – Using qualitative evidence syntheses to develop implementation considerations and inform implementation processes

Glenton, Claire, Lewin, Simon A, Lawrie, Theresa A, Barreix, Maria, Downe, Soo orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2848-2550, Finlayson, Kenneth William orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1287-7630, Tamrat, Tigest, Rosenbaum, Sarah and Tuncalp, Ozge (2019) Qualitative Evidence Synthesis (QES) for Guidelines: Paper 3 – Using qualitative evidence syntheses to develop implementation considerations and inform implementation processes. Health Research Policy and Systems, 17 (74).

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12961-019-0450-1


Background: This is the third in a series of three papers describing the use of qualitative evidence syntheses (QES) to inform the development of clinical and health systems guidelines. WHO has recognised the need to improve its guideline methodology to ensure that decision-making processes are transparent and evidence based, and that the resulting recommendations are relevant and applicable to end users. In addition to the standard data on effectiveness, WHO guidelines increasingly use evidence derived from QES to provide information on acceptability and feasibility and to develop important implementation considerations.

Methods: WHO convened a group drawn from the technical teams involved in formulating recent (2010–2018) guidelines employing QES. Using a pragmatic and iterative approach that included feedback from WHO staff and other stakeholders, the group reflected on, discussed and identified key methods and research implications from designing QES and using the resulting findings in guideline development. As members of WHO guideline technical teams, our aim in this paper is to explore how we have used findings from QES to develop implementation considerations for these guidelines.

Results: For each guideline, in addition to using systematic reviews of effectiveness, the technical teams used QES to gather evidence of the acceptability and feasibility of interventions and, in some cases, equity issues and the value people place on different outcomes. This evidence was synthesised using standardised processes. The teams then used the QES to identify implementation considerations combined with other sources of information and input from experts.

Conclusions: QES were useful sources of information for implementation considerations. However, several issues for further development remain, including whether researchers should use existing health systems frameworks when developing implementation considerations; whether researchers should take confidence in the evidence into account when developing implementation considerations; whether qualitative evidence that reveals implementation challenges should lead guideline panels to make conditional recommendations or only point to implementation considerations; and whether guideline users find it helpful to have challenges pointed out to them or whether they also need solutions. Finally, we need to explore how QES findings can be incorporated into derivative products to aid implementation.

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