16 November 2015
CERQual: A new approach for supporting the use of qualitative evidence in decision making
Scientists at the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), working with a global network of researchers, have published a paper in PLOS Medicine describing a new approach to support the use of qualitative evidence in decisions relating to healthcare and social welfare.
The Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative research (CERQual) approach, in which the SAMRC’s Health Systems Research Unit has played a prominent role, is an innovative and transparent system for assessing how much confidence to place in findings from qualitative evidence syntheses.
“Findings from syntheses of qualitative research are used more and more frequently in decision-making related to health and social policies,” says the SAMRC’s Dr Simon Lewin, “It is therefore imperative that decision makers understand how much confidence to place in these findings.”
The CERQual approach includes four key components when assessing a review finding from a qualitative evidence synthesis. It assesses the methodological limitations of the qualitative studies contributing to a review finding; the relevance to the review question of the studies contributing to a review finding; the coherence of the review finding; and lastly the adequacy of data supporting a review finding.
The CERQual approach has already been used in two guidelines published by the World Health Organization (WHO). “We anticipate wide use of the approach in other organizations involved in guideline development,” says Lewin.
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