Background: There is increasing recognition that it is good practice to involve stakeholders (meaning patients, the public, health professionals and others) in systematic reviews, but limited evidence about how best to do this. We aimed to document the evidence-base relating to stakeholder involvement in systematic reviews and to use this evidence to describe how stakeholders have been involved in systematic reviews.
Methods: We carried out a scoping review, following a published protocol. We searched multiple electronic databases (2010-2016), using a stepwise searching approach, supplemented with hand searching. Two authors independently screened and discussed the first 500 abstracts and, after clarifying selection criteria, screened a further 500. Agreement on screening decisions was 97%, so screening was done by one reviewer only. Pre-planned data extraction was completed, and the comprehensiveness of the description of methods of involvement judged. Additional data extraction was completed for papers judged to have most comprehensive descriptions. Three stakeholder representatives were co-authors for this systematic review.
Results: We included 291 papers in which stakeholders were involved in a systematic review. Thirty percent involved patients and/or carers. Thirty-two percent were from the USA, 26% from the UK and 10% from Canada. Ten percent (32 reviews) were judged to provide a comprehensive description of methods of involving stakeholders. Sixty-nine percent (22/32) personally invited people to be involved; 22% (7/32) advertised opportunities to the general population. Eighty-one percent (26/32) had between 1 and 20 face-to-face meetings, with 83% of these holding ≤ 4 meetings. Meetings lasted 1 h to ½ day. Nineteen percent (6/32) used a Delphi method, most often involving three electronic rounds. Details of ethical approval were reported by 10/32. Expenses were reported to be paid to people involved in 8/32 systematic reviews.
Discussion/conclusion: We identified a relatively large number (291) of papers reporting stakeholder involvement in systematic reviews, but the quality of reporting was generally very poor. Information from a subset of papers judged to provide the best descriptions of stakeholder involvement in systematic reviews provide examples of different ways in which stakeholders have been involved in systematic reviews. These examples arguably currently provide the best available information to inform and guide decisions around the planning of stakeholder involvement within future systematic reviews. This evidence has been used to develop online learning resources.
- Scoping review
- Systematic review