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Methods Inf Med. 2011;50(5):435-44. doi: 10.3414/ME10-01-0028. Epub 2010 Dec 6.

Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) for examining healthcare professionals' assessments of risk factors. The relative importance of risk factors for falls in community-dwelling older people.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical, Electronic and Telecommunication Engineering, University Federico II of Naples, Via Claudio 21, 80125 Naples, Italy.



A gap exists between evidence-based medicine and clinical-practice. Every day, healthcare professionals (HCPs) combine empirical evidence and subjective experience in order to maximize the effectiveness of interventions. Consequently, it is important to understand how HCPs interpret the research evidence and apply it in everyday practice. We focused on the prevention of falls, a common cause of injury-related morbidity and mortality in later life, for which there is a wide range of known risk factors.


To use the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) to investigate the opinions of HCPs in prioritizing risk factors for preventing falls.


We used the AHP to develop a hierarchy of risk factors for falls based on the knowledge and experience of experts. We submitted electronic questionnaires via the web, in order to reach a wider number of respondents. With a web service, we pooled the results and weighted the coherence and the experience of respondents.


Overall, 232 respondents participated in the study: 32 in the technical pilot study, nine in the scientific pilot study and 191 respondents in the main study. We identified a hierarchy of 35 risk factors, organized in two categories and six sub-categories.


The hierarchy of risk factors provides further insights into clinicians' perceptions of risk factors for falls. This hierarchy helps understand the relative importance that clinicians place on risk factors for falls in older people and why evidence-based guidelines are not always followed. This information may be helpful in improving intervention programs and in understanding how clinicians prioritize multiple risk factors in individual patients. The AHP method allows the opinions of HCPs to be investigated, giving appropriate weight to their coherence, background and experience.

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