We’ve had interest from the healthcare community, particularly from those in guideline development, about our DART tool. We developed it to meet our specific needs, but because others have asked, we recently accepted an invitation for Open Access publication of the systematic review quality assessment tool and our development methods.
We have not formally validated the tool outside of our organizational use. We piloted and revised it numerous times to ensure that we got consistent results between users and with repeat review by the same user.
Why did we develop our own tool? Because none of the existing tools met all our needs.
In our environment it was important to keep our evidence reviews current, and updates needed to be completed quickly. It was inefficient to waste time re-evaluating the data from prior reviews to incorporate new data. We needed a more thorough record of our evaluations of systematic review quality.
We also needed a tool with more detail in evaluation methods to guide junior epidemiologists through the process. Our staff included new or near-graduates of epidemiology programs. Even though we provided training, they needed more practice. Like all newly educated, it takes time and practice to fine tune new skills. The existing tools did not provide enough direction to help them seek out and evaluate the important quality aspects of systematic review studies.
We also needed the simplicity of a single tool. As a health system, we needed to evaluate all kinds of healthcare questions, not just those about interventions. We needed to review diagnostics and prognostics, prevention and risk, so we set about incorporating basic quality assessment for observational as well as experimental study design.
It will likely take you longer to complete DART than other quality assessment tools, at least initially. But you’ll get faster with repeated use. And if your organization uses double review and regularly updates evidence, the time you spend recording reasons for your assessment will save you much more time later. (HINT – don’t forget page number notations). For our use, we created the tool in Excel, to eliminate paper and to further reduce time in retrieving our record from the file cabinets.
To read about our development of the DART tool, see the new open access paper here
We invite you to try our tool in the Excel format and let us know what you think. And we welcome interest in validation.