Design characteristics and statistical methods used in interrupted time series studies evaluating public health interventions: protocol for a review

BMJ Open. 2019 Jan 28;9(1):e024096. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-024096.


Introduction: An interrupted time series (ITS) design is an important observational design used to examine the effects of an intervention or exposure. This design has particular utility in public health where it may be impracticable or infeasible to use a randomised trial to evaluate health system-wide policies, or examine the impact of exposures (such as earthquakes). There have been relatively few studies examining the design characteristics and statistical methods used to analyse ITS designs. Further, there is a lack of guidance to inform the design and analysis of ITS studies.This is the first study in a larger project that aims to provide tools and guidance for researchers in the design and analysis of ITS studies. The objectives of this study are to (1) examine and report the design characteristics and statistical methods used in a random sample of contemporary ITS studies examining public health interventions or exposures that impact on health-related outcomes, and (2) create a repository of time series data extracted from ITS studies. Results from this study will inform the remainder of the project which will investigate the performance of a range of commonly used statistical methods, and create a repository of input parameters required for sample size calculation.

Methods and analysis: We will collate 200 ITS studies evaluating public health interventions or the impact of exposures. ITS studies will be identified from a search of the bibliometric database PubMed between the years 2013 and 2017, combined with stratified random sampling. From eligible studies, we will extract study characteristics, details of the statistical models and estimation methods, effect metrics and parameter estimates. Further, we will extract the time series data when available. We will use systematic review methods in the screening, application of inclusion and exclusion criteria, and extraction of data. Descriptive statistics will be used to summarise the data.

Ethics and dissemination: Ethics approval is not required since information will only be extracted from published studies. Dissemination of the results will be through peer-reviewed publications and presentations at conferences. A repository of data extracted from the published ITS studies will be made publicly available.

Keywords: interrupted time series; public health; segmented regression; statistical methods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Interrupted Time Series Analysis*
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Public Health*
  • Research Design*
  • Statistics as Topic*