Methodological strategies for the identification and synthesis of ‘evidence’ to support decision-making in relation to complex healthcare systems and practices
This paper addresses the limitations of current methods supporting ‘evidence-based health-care’ in relation to complex aspects of care, including those questions that are best supported by descriptive or non-empirical evidence. The paper identifies some new methods, which may be useful in aiding the synthesis of data in these areas. The methods detailed are broadly divided into those that facilitate the identification of evidence and those that enable the interpretation of the data retrieved. To illustrate some of the issues involved, reference is made to a multimethod review recently completed by the authors, which aimed to identify factors that promote continuity in the transition from child to adult health and social care. It is argued that as healthcare organisations are becoming increasingly preoccupied with the evidence base of practice, such methods may help ensure that aspects of care and approaches that are outside the dominant pharmaco-medical domain maintain a prominent position on the healthcare agenda while remaining open to external scrutiny. Healthcare professionals who use such approaches need to know their relative utility and benefits to inform clinical decisions, so as to ensure that best practice is observed.