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Integration of Existing Systematic Reviews

Research White Papers

Investigators: , PhD, , MD, MPH, , PhD, , MPH, , PhD, , PhD, , PhD, MBA, , PhD, , PhD, MPH, , PhD, , MD, and , MD, MPH.

Author Information and Affiliations
Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); .
Report No.: 14-EHC016-EF

Structured Abstract


Exponential increase in the number of systematic reviews published, and constrained resources for new reviews, means that there is an urgent need for guidance on explicitly and transparently integrating existing reviews into systematic reviews. The objectives of this paper are: (1) to identify areas where existing guidance may be adopted or adapted, and (2) to suggest areas for future guidance development.


We searched documents and Web sites from systematic review organizations to identify and, where available, summarize relevant guidance on the use of existing systematic reviews. We conducted informational interviews with members of Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPCs) to gather experiences in integrating existing systematic reviews, including common issues and challenges, as well as potential solutions.


There was consensus among systematic review organizations and the EPCs about some aspects of incorporating existing systematic reviews. However, areas of challenge remain. Areas in need of guidance include how to synthesize, grade the strength of, and present bodies of evidence composed of primary studies and existing systematic reviews.


There remain areas of uncertainty for how to integrate existing systematic reviews. Methods research along with future EPC program methods workgroups are needed to address these challenges.

Prepared for: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services1, Contract No. 290-2012-00004-C. Prepared by: Scientific Resource Center, Portland, OR

Suggested citation:

Robinson KA, Whitlock EP, O'Neil ME, Anderson JK, Hartling L, Dryden DM, Butler M, Newberry SJ, McPheeters M, Berkman ND, Lin JS, Chang S. Integration of Existing Systematic Reviews. Research White Paper (Prepared by the Scientific Resource Center under Contract No. 290-2012-00004-C). AHRQ Publication No. 14-EHC016-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. June 2014. www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/reports/final.cfm

This report is based on research conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Scientific Resource Center Working Group 3. The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the authors, who are responsible for its contents; the findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. Therefore, no statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The information in this report is intended to help health care decisionmakers—patients and clinicians, health system leaders, and policymakers, among others—make well-informed decisions and thereby improve the quality of health care services. This report is not intended to be a substitute for the application of clinical judgment. Anyone who makes decisions concerning the provision of clinical care should consider this report in the same way as any medical reference and in conjunction with all other pertinent information (i.e., in the context of available resources and circumstances presented by individual patients).

This report may be used, in whole or in part, as the basis for development of clinical practice guidelines and other quality enhancement tools, or as a basis for reimbursement and coverage policies. AHRQ or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorsement of such derivative products may not be stated or implied.

None of the investigators have any affiliations or financial involvement that conflicts with the material presented in this report.


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Bookshelf ID: NBK216379PMID: 25032273


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