Rapid review: an emerging approach to evidence synthesis in health technology assessment

Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2014 Jan;30(1):20-7. doi: 10.1017/S0266462313000664. Epub 2014 Jan 22.


Background: Increasingly, healthcare decision makers demand quality evidence in a short timeframe to support urgent and emergent decisions related to procurement, clinical practice, and policy. Health technology assessment (HTA) producers are responding by developing innovative approaches to evidence synthesis that can be executed more quickly than traditional systematic review. These approaches, and the broader implications they bring to bear on health decision making and policy development, however, are generally neither well-understood nor well-described. This study intends to contribute to an emerging literature around methodological approaches to rapid review in HTA by outlining those developed and implemented by the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH).

Methods: Since 2005, CADTH has developed and implemented a rapid review approach that synthesizes evidence to support informed healthcare decisions and policy. Rapid Response reports are tailored to the identified needs of Canadian health decision makers, representing a range of options with regard to depth, breadth, and time-to-delivery.

Results: Preliminary observations indicate that CADTH's approach to rapid evidence review is generally well-received by Canadian health decision makers; real-world case studies provide pragmatic examples of how health decision makers have used Rapid Response reports to support evidence-informed health decisions across Canada.

Conclusions: Rapid review is becoming an increasingly important approach to evidence synthesis, both within and external to the field of HTA. Transparent reporting of the methods used to develop rapid review products will be critical to the assessment of their relevance, utility and effects in a range of contexts.

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical*