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Buckley DI, Ansari M, Butler M, et al. The Refinement of Topics for Systematic Reviews: Lessons and Recommendations From the Effective Health Care Program [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2013 Jan.

Cover of The Refinement of Topics for Systematic Reviews

The Refinement of Topics for Systematic Reviews: Lessons and Recommendations From the Effective Health Care Program [Internet].

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AHRQ's Effective Health Care Program

sponsors systematic reviews and the translation and dissemination of research findings to inform decisionmaking and improve the quality of health care services.

Evidence-based Practice Centers

EPCs are institutions in the United States and Canada contracted by AHRQ to develop systematic reviews and technology assessments on topics relevant to clinical and other health care organization and delivery issues. The EPCs also conduct research on methodology of systematic reviews.

Key Informants

This is a small number of stakeholders that provide input to the topic refinement team. They share their diverse perspectives and understanding of real-world context on specific topics during interviews facilitated by the topic refinement team. This in turn helps to inform the scope of the review, and improve the relevance and applicability of the results of the evidence review for decisionmakers.


These are individuals that suggest topics for systematic review. He/she lends the topic initial direction and form by providing information about the questions, the affected population, the health-related benefits and harms.

Topic refinement team

This group is composed of investigators and other individuals with expertise in topic content, systematic review methodology, health care, facilitation, and stakeholder engagement.

Project Officer

This is an individual who represents AHRQ and serves as a point of contact to the Evidence-based Practice Center and its investigators. The Project Officer provides oversight to ensure consistency with the program processes, scientific methods, and principles.

Topical experts

are individuals who have relevant content expertise and who are easily accessed by the topic refinement team. These may be clinicians or other health care providers, researchers, or other individuals who are well versed with the topic. These individuals provide input early in the topic refinement process before Key Informant interviews. These interviews provide insight into technical issues, controversies, and the current state of knowledge about the topic.


are individuals or groups with an interest in the clinical decision and the evidence that supports that decision. These end users of research may be patients or caregivers, practicing clinicians, representatives of professional or consumer organizations, payers, policymakers, industry representatives, or others involved in health care decisionmaking. The EHC programs strives to include stakeholders in the research enterprise from the beginning to improve the end product and facilitate the diffusion and implementation of the findings. Involving relevant stakeholders also helps to ensure that the research reflects the various needs of all diverse users.

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