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Importance of scoping reviews for health research

September 07, 2015

To face the challenge of active and healthy ageing, European Health Systems and services should move towards proactive, anticipatory and integrated care. The comparison of methods to combine results across studies and to determine an overall effect was undertaken by the EU project ASSEHS (Activation of Stratification Strategies and Results of the interventions on frail patients of Healthcare Services, EU project (N° 2013 12 04)). The questions raised in ASSEHS are broad and involve a complex body of literature. Thus, systematic reviews are not appropriate. The most appropriate method appears to be scoping studies. Scoping reviews are an increasingly popular approach to reviewing health research evidence (1-3) addressing broad research questions on a topic (4). The scoping study methodology can be used to characterize and catalogue the extensive body of literature pertaining to health system reporting, information or policies (5-10). Scoping studies can be added to a Delphi process (11). Scoping studies appear to be the most relevant methods for the questions raised in ASSEHS. A comparison between scoping studies and systematic reviews has been proposed (5) (Table 1 and Figure 1). 

Table 1: comparison between scoping reviews and systematic reviews (from (5)

Figure 1: Steps of the Scoping reviews

1. Arksey H, O'Malley L. Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. Int J Soc res Meth. 2005;8(1):19-32.
2. Colquhoun HL, Levac D, O'Brien KK, Straus S, Tricco AC, Perrier L, et al. Scoping reviews: time for clarity in definition, methods, and reporting. J Clin Epidemiol. 2014.
3. Levac D, Colquhoun H, O'Brien KK. Scoping studies: advancing the methodology. Implement Sci. 2010;5:69.
4. Sarrami-Foroushani P, Travaglia J, Debono D, Clay-Williams R, Braithwaite J. Scoping Meta-Review: Introducing a New Methodology. Clin Transl Sci. 2014.
5. Brien SE, Lorenzetti DL, Lewis S, Kennedy J, Ghali WA. Overview of a formal scoping review on health system report cards. Implement Sci. 2010;5:2.
6. Brien S, Gheihman G, Tse YK, Byrnes M, Harrison S, Dobrow MJ. A scoping review of appropriateness of care research activity in Canada from a health system-level perspective. Healthc Policy. 2014;9(4):48-61.
7. Bassi J, Lau F. Measuring value for money: a scoping review on economic evaluation of health information systems. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2013;20(4):792-801.
8. Bigdeli M, Javadi D, Hoebert J, Laing R, Ranson K, Alliance for Health P, et al. Health policy and systems research in access to medicines: a prioritized agenda for low- and middle-income countries. Health Res Policy Syst. 2013;11:37.
9. Brandt B, Lutfiyya MN, King JA, Chioreso C. A scoping review of interprofessional collaborative practice and education using the lens of the Triple Aim. J Interprof Care. 2014;28(5):393-9.
10. Dennis SM, Harris M, Lloyd J, Powell Davies G, Faruqi N, Zwar N. Do people with existing chronic conditions benefit from telephone coaching? A rapid review. Aust Health Rev. 2013;37(3):381-8.
11. Howell D, Fitch M, Bakker D, Green E, Sussman J, Mayo S, et al. Core domains for a person-focused outcome measurement system in cancer (PROMS-Cancer Core) for routine care: a scoping review and Canadian Delphi Consensus. Value Health. 2013;16(1):76-87.

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This webpage arises from the project ASSEHS which has received funding from the European Union, in the framework of the Health Programme (2008-2013).