New guidelines hope to improve decision making

Posted on 29th October 2015

New guidance released this week aims to help authorities make better evidence-based decisions about health and social care.

Published in PLOS Medicine the research describes a new approach for policymakers on how to use the findings from qualitative evidence synthesis.

Evidence synthesis is a research technique that brings together all of the academic knowledge on a particular topic. By compiling and assessing this body of research, it can provide a powerful insight into what is known, what isn’t known, and what evidence is robust enough to inform policies.

However, interpreting the findings from qualitative evidence syntheses can be difficult. So an international group of experts – including researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School – has developed ‘CERQual’.

The Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative research project sets out an approach to help the authors of evidence syntheses consider, analyse, and report findings in a more useful and usable way.

CERQual can help decision-makers understand how much confidence to place in findings, and allow them to judge how much emphasis to give findings when making decisions.

Dr Ruth Garside, an expert in systematic reviews and evidence synthesis at the University of Exeter Medical School, said

“Syntheses of qualitative research can provide vital information about the experience of health interventions, helping authorities to make sound evidence-based decisions. We’ve developed CERQual to ensure this evidence is in a format that can be understood and used by policy makers and practitioners, ultimately to improve health and social care.”

The CERQual approach has already been used in two guidelines published by the World Health Organization and its developers are keen for it to evolve further.

Co-author of the new PLOS Medicine paper, Claire Glenton, said “To support the further development of CERQual and to facilitate the wide involvement of stakeholders in this process, we’ve established a GRADE-CERQual Project Group. We’re encouraging those keen to work in this area to join the group via our website ( and to contribute to the development of the CERQual approach.”

Full details of the guidelines can be found in the published article here

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