An inventory of ‘best evidence syntheses’ for all types of decisions being faced by those who are part of the COVID-19 pandemic response will save time and avoid duplication for those providing ‘front-line’ decision support.
Right now, each time these individuals are asked a question by decision-makers, they have to review all of the ‘high yield, high quality’ sources of COVID-19 evidence (ideally using the regularly updated COVID-END guide to key evidence sources), select those evidence syntheses that appear relevant based on their titles, look for the date of search (to assess how up-to-date the evidence synthesis is), appraise the quality of the evidence synthesis (to assess whether the synthesis was conducted in a systematic and transparent way), identify and extract key findings for an evidence profile if one is available, etc. This process is likely undertaken many times in a given week for the same question by different groups around the world.
As we collectively pivot from a sprint to a marathon with the pandemic response, we can and must do better.
With a regularly updated inventory of best evidence syntheses, individuals providing front-line decision support can simply use the COVID-END inventory to quickly identify the best evidence synthesis for their question and then proceed to interpreting what the evidence means for their context.
And those involved in conducting evidence syntheses can begin to prioritize and fill gaps in ‘living’ evidence syntheses (which they update as the evidence changes) instead of primarily conducting one-off rapid syntheses. They can also begin to ‘level up’ to the highest standards in evidence synthesis instead of having to ‘cut corners’ as is done in many rapid reviews.
The COVID-END inventory is organized using the COVID-END taxonomy of decisions, which is a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive list of types of decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and response. It is organized by:
- public-health measures (infection prevention and control as well as broader measures)
- clinical management of COVID-19 and related health issues (e.g., unmanaged chronic conditions, mental health issues, and family violence)
- health-system arrangements (e.g., how to re-start ambulatory clinics, cancer treatments, and elective procedures, how to maintain and build on the gains achieved with virtual care)
- economic and social responses (e.g., education, financial protection, food safety and security, housing, recreation, and transportation)
COVID-END will update the taxonomy based on input from the COVID-END horizon-scanning panel and the insights derived from profiling the best evidence syntheses for any given decision.
The taxonomy (which effectively focuses on interventions, exposures or phenomena of interest) can be complemented by taxonomies of populations (e.g., those at high risk or living on congregate living environments) and outcomes of interest (e.g., service experiences, health outcomes, costs, and provider experiences).
The taxonomy should be distinguished from a taxonomy of the many research questions that need to be answered ‘behind-the-scenes’ so the answers can become embedded into the evidence needed for decision-making. Many of the evidence maps about COVID-19 research are focused on research questions and they include categories like etiology that is key background knowledge and categories like diagnosis and prognosis that may contain both background knowledge (e.g. potential biomarkers that are being explored) and research evidence that is already usable by decision-makers.
Learn more about our approach to developing the inventory of best evidence syntheses.