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Assessing the Applicability of Studies When Comparing Medical Interventions.


Methods Guide for Effectiveness and Comparative Effectiveness Reviews [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2008-.
AHRQ Methods for Effective Health Care.
2010 Dec 30.

Author information

Office of Research and Development, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC
Center for Outcomes and Evidence, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD
Department for Evidence-based Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Danube University, Krems, Austria
Oregon Evidence-based Practice Center, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR
Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, OR
Duke Center for Clinical Health Policy Research, Durham, NC
Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore


This paper outlines specific steps to ensure that systematic reviews describe and characterize the evidence so that users of a review can apply it appropriately in their decisions. The first step, identifying factors that may affect applicability, should be considered at the very earliest stages of a review, when defining key questions and the populations, interventions, comparators, and outcomes of interest. Defining inclusion and exclusion criteria inevitably takes into account factors that may affect the applicability of studies—for example, reviews meant to inform decision-makers in developed countries exclude studies in developing countries because they may not be applicable to the patients and health care settings in Western countries. This paper focuses on subsequent steps in a review to describe a systematic but practical approach for considering applicability in the process of reviewing, reporting, and synthesizing evidence from eligible studies.

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