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Conducting a systematic review in only 12 weeks

written by Dr. Joseph Firth and Dr. Max Noble


Answering the call for innovation

Systematic reviews are considered the gold standard in evidence synthesis. By providing an unbiased summary of all the available evidence on a given topic, they are able to provide more reliable findings and deeper insights than any single study alone. The urgency for a faster, more efficient approach to systematic reviews has never been clearer. The pace of discovery is relentless and the need for timely, evidence-based decisions is paramount, systematic reviews stand as a cornerstone of reliable knowledge synthesis. These reviews are the gold standard, meticulously aggregating data from numerous studies to provide comprehensive insights that drive clinical guidelines, inform policy decisions, and shape future research directions. Yet, the very rigor that makes systematic reviews invaluable also renders them time-consuming, often taking two years to complete. This prolonged timeline poses significant challenges in a field. A solution is desperately needed to increase the speed of systematic reviews, whilst maintaining rigor.

How can we increase speed, whilst maintaining rigor?

Literature screening(quantified gains months to minutes)

Automated data extraction(quantified gains months to minutes)

Quality assessment(quantified gains months to minutes)

However powerful these tools are, they would be worthless if they weren’t backed by the right expertise. Synthesising these advanced technological tools with world-leading experts ensures that reviews can not only be faster but also retain, and even increase, their essential rigor.

Do we want this?

Bringing in world-leading expertise

Introducing Dr. Joseph Firth.Joseph has published hundreds of peer-reviewed papers in top-ranked medical journals. His systematic reviews have received tens of thousands of citations worldwide. He is an established expert in such methods, having led numerous meta-analyses of clinical trials, conducted invited reviews for The BMJ, NEJM, etc., and carried out reviews for various major medical bodies including the World Health Organisation (as part of their Guideline Development Groups), The Lancet Commissions, and more.You can find more information on Dr. Firth’s previous papers HERE

"Accelerated systematic reviews, when executed with best practices, can revolutionize evidence-based medicine by delivering timely insights without compromising on quality. By combining advanced technologies with expert oversight, we can ensure that every step upholds the highest standards of scientific integrity, thereby providing rapid yet reliable evidence." Dr. Joseph Firth

Read more in Joseph’s article: "Lessons from my first 100 systematic reviews”

Creating a robust
and  reproducible methodology

In collaboration with Dr. Firth, we've refined a streamlined process that integrates cutting-edge methodologies with rigorous standards. This collaborative effort ensures that our approach not only accelerates the systematic review process but also upholds the highest levels of scientific integrity and reliability.The value of the science can be extended within the review to global networks of Key Opinion Leaders (Key External Experts), Payor Influencing KOLs, Digital Opinion leaders and their networks drawing on 10's of million of data points carefully curated to deliver high value insights.

Step 1: Research Question & Eligibility

VISFO’s new standard timescale: x weeks

In the initial step of an accelerated systematic review, we meticulously define the research question and eligibility criteria using the PICO framework (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome). This ensures that the review is focused and relevant. By clearly specifying the population of interest, the interventions being assessed, the comparisons being made, and the outcomes measured, we create a robust blueprint that guides the entire review process. This precision helps in identifying relevant studies, maintaining consistency, and ensuring the validity of the findings.

Step 2: Extensive Searches

Industry-standard timescale: x monthsVISFO’s new standard timescale: x weeks

In the extensive searches phase, we systematically scour multiple databases, journals, and grey literature sources to identify all relevant studies that meet our predefined criteria. Using advanced search algorithms and Boolean operators, we ensure that our search strategy is exhaustive, capturing the full breadth of available evidence. This comprehensive approach minimizes bias and maximizes the inclusion of pertinent studies, laying a strong foundation for a thorough and accurate systematic review.

Lower costs

Only buy what you need - Helix is modular by design.

Customizable, modular knowledge bases

No unnecessary set-up costs

No user limits

A VISFO "Knowledge bases" dashboard displayed on both a desktop and mobile screen. It features interactive graphs showing KOL location, payer influencing KOLs, and epidemiology data. Users also have the option to add a knowledge base.

Step 3: Study Selection & Data Extraction

Industry standard timescale: x monthsVISFO’s new standard timescale: x weeks

During the study selection and data extraction phase, we meticulously screen the identified studies against our eligibility criteria, ensuring only relevant and high-quality studies are included. Using standardized forms and software tools, we systematically extract essential data such as study characteristics, methods, outcomes, and key findings. This rigorous process ensures consistency, reduces errors, and facilitates a comprehensive synthesis of the evidence, forming the backbone of the systematic review.

Step 4: Bias Assessment

Industry-standard timescale: x monthsVISFO’s new standard timescale: x weeks

In the bias assessment phase, we critically evaluate each included study for potential biases that could affect the validity of the findings. Using standardized tools such as the Cochrane Risk of Bias Tool or ROBINS-I, we systematically assess various bias domains, including selection bias, performance bias, detection bias, and reporting bias. This rigorous evaluation ensures that the results of our systematic review are reliable and accurately reflect the true effects being studied.

Step 5: Evidence Synthesis

Industry standard timescale: x monthsVISFO’s new standard timescale: x weeks

In the evidence synthesis phase, we integrate the findings from all included studies using narrative and statistical methods. For narrative synthesis, we systematically summarize the results, highlighting patterns, themes, and key insights. For statistical synthesis, we employ meta-analysis techniques to quantitatively combine data, producing overall effect estimates and identifying trends across studies. This comprehensive synthesis provides a clear, cohesive picture of the evidence, enabling robust conclusions and informed decision-making.