Background: With rising health care costs and the diversity of scientific and clinical information available to health care providers it is essential to have methodologies that synthesize and distill the quality of information and make it practical to clinicians, patients and policy makers. Too often research synthesis results in the statement that "more and better research is needed" or the conclusions are slanted toward the biases of one type of stakeholder. Such conclusions are discouraging to clinicians and patients who need better guidance on the decisions they make every day.
Method: Expert panels are one method for offering valuable insight into the scientific evidence and what experts believe about its application to a given clinical situation. However, with improper management their conclusions can end up being biased or even wrong. There are several types of expert panels, but two that have been extensively involved in bringing evidence to bear on clinical practice are consensus panels, and appropriateness panels. These types of panels are utilized by organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Medicine, RAND, and other organizations to provide clinical guidance. However, there is a need for a more cost effective and efficient approach in conducting these panels. In this paper we describe both types of expert panels and ways to adapt those models to form part of Samueli Institute's Scientific Evaluation and Research of Claims in Health Care (SEaRCH™) program.
Discussion: Expert Panels provide evidence-based information to guide research, practice and health care decision making. The panel process used in SEaRCH seeks to customize, synthesize and streamline these methods. By making the process transparent the panel process informs decisions about clinical appropriateness and research agenda decisions.