Chapter 3: Choosing the important outcomes for a systematic review of a medical test

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4 Scopus citations


In this chapter of the Evidence-based Practice Centers Methods Guide for Medical Tests, we describe how the decision to use a medical test generates a broad range of outcomes and that each of these outcomes should be considered for inclusion in a systematic review. Awareness of these varied outcomes affects how a decision maker balances the benefits and risks of the test; therefore, a systematic review should present the evidence on these diverse outcomes. The key outcome categories include clinical management outcomes and direct health effects; emotional, social, cognitive, and behavioral responses to testing; legal and ethical outcomes, and costs. We describe the challenges of incorporating these outcomes in a systematic review, suggest a framework for generating potential outcomes for inclusion, and describe the role of stakeholders in choosing the outcomes for study. Finally, we give examples of systematic reviews that either included a range of outcomes or that might have done so. The following are the key messages in this chapter: • Consider both the outcomes that are relevant to the process of testing and those that are relevant to the results of the test. • Consider inclusion of outcomes in all five domains: clinical management effects, direct test effects; emotional, social, cognitive and behavioral effects; legal and ethical effects, and costs. • Consider to which group the outcomes of testing are most relevant. • Given resource limitations, prioritize which outcomes to include. This decision depends on the needs of the stakeholder(s), who should be assisted in prioritizing the outcomes for inclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S20-S27
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue numberSUPPL.1
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • diagnostic tests
  • outcomes
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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