Background: Although the need to produce relevant and top priority evidence for health is widely supported, a gold standard for conducting a priority setting exercise in health research, dissemination and implementation does not exist. We developed and tested a method that supports the priority setting of systematic review topics in health.
Objectives: Our priority setting framework aims (1) to be usable in a variety of priority setting exercises regarding health, education and social welfare topics and it aims (2) to enable stakeholders to contribute to the creation of review topics. We have undertaken a pilot in Switzerland and are currently rolling it out in Austria and Germany.
Methods: Our multi-stage framework features the use of online questionnaires as part of a modified Delphi technique that allows for an easy incorporation of both metrics- and consensus-based techniques. This reduces resource expenses and potential disadvantages of a face-to-face expert panel such as social pressure and dominance of certain individuals or groups. Secondly, the questionnaires are programmed in a free, open-source software tool that allows for easy replication by different review groups in different contexts. Thirdly, we use a recruitment strategy in which organisations are invited to nominate respondents from within their own organisation. This increases the likelihood that the invited individuals will participate and allows for selection of individuals who are considered most suitable for contributing to the priority setting exercise. Fourthly, as many stakeholders are not familiar enough with PICO questions, we step-wise guide the stakeholders to indirectly create potential review topics in a PICO format.
Discussion: Drawing on our experience from the pilot, our multi-stage process is very suitable for a quick and thorough prioritisation of systematic review topics with relevant stakeholders. It is user-friendly for both the research team and the participants. We would like to use the opportunity to share the results of this pilot project in order to discuss ways forward to a generalised framework for prioritising systematic review topics.