Format and Conduct of Consensus Development Conferences, Multination Comparison

Published in: International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care, v. 6, no. 3, Apr. 1990, p. 450-469

by Elizabeth A. McGlynn, Jacqueline Kosecoff, Robert H. Brook

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The consensus development conference method developed by the National Institutes of Health in the United States has been adopted and modified by a number of countries. Based on published articles and communication with representatives from each country, we examined whether the organization and conduct of these conferences in nine countries (United States, Canada, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) enhanced or detracted from achieving the stated conference goals and objectives. We conclude that improvements in the process by which consensus conferences are conducted may be warranted. More scientific methods for synthesizing literature, such as meta-analysis, should be used in developing inputs for the conference panel. Formalizing the decision-making processes through polling or other methods that allow for structured disagreement with parts of a consensus statement would potentially expand the range and type of issues that can be addressed in such conferences. Finally, countries should consider having the consensus statement written over a longer period of time than the traditional overnight session, which seems unlikely to promote clear thinking.

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