Results Summary and Professional Abstract
Peer review of PCORI-funded research helps make sure the report presents complete, balanced, and useful information about the research. It also assesses how the project addressed PCORI’s Methodology Standards. During peer review, experts read a draft report of the research and provide comments about the report. These experts may include a scientist focused on the research topic, a specialist in research methods, a patient or caregiver, and a healthcare professional. These reviewers cannot have conflicts of interest with the study.
The peer reviewers point out where the draft report may need revision. For example, they may suggest ways to improve descriptions of the conduct of the study or to clarify the connection between results and conclusions. Sometimes, awardees revise their draft reports twice or more to address all of the reviewers’ comments.
Peer reviewers commented and the researchers made changes or provided responses. Those comments and responses included the following:
- The reviewers suggested that a more-narrow interpretation of the results was warranted. In particular, they recommended this because it appeared that less than half of the participants in the intervention arm of the study actually viewed the question prompt list (QPL) before talking with their surgeons and because a sizeable portion of patients did not talk with their surgeons at all before surgery. The reviewers noted that while this study did not demonstrate the efficacy of QPLs, other studies were more positive. The researchers agreed that their study lacked power to detect small effects of their intervention, but they did not want to state that they failed to see a greater effect because of the size of their study. The researchers noted it was also possible that the intervention did not work because surgeons dominated or controlled discussions so much that patients were not able to have their questions or concerns addressed. The researchers said their conclusions were specifically about their intervention, not whether QPLs in general are promising.
- The reviewers asked about the questionnaire chosen to measure patient concerns and well-being, noting that it seemed like an odd choice since the questionnaire measures changes in how a concern is rated, but the “most pressing concern” that is being rated can change. The researchers said that in hindsight they would not have used this questionnaire as their primary measure of patient well-being. The researchers explained that their patient and family advisors were clear that their most pressing problem with preoperative communication was feeling blindsided by treatments postoperatively. Since there is no measurement for being blindsided, the researchers explained, they chose the questionnaire they chose because it allowed patients and families to identify and rate their own concerns rather than rate concerns that researchers had defined in advance. The researchers said this outcome measure turned out to be confusing because patients and families specified a large range of concerns. The researchers added that they plan to conduct another analysis to describe the range of concerns patients and families expressed, which they feel will be helpful to surgeons.
- The reviewers asked for more details on missing data. The researchers said the rate of missing data was low and occurred randomly, rather than being concentrated in particular groups. Given the low rate of missing data, the researchers said they felt no need to make inferences about the missing data. The reviewers challenged this response, pointing out that the researchers used a complete case analysis, where they only included participant data in analyses where the data were complete. The researchers added a statement to their limitations that there were cases of substantial missing data for some measures, leading them to use the less stringent analysis strategy.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures
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