Poor reporting limits impact of research into improving surgical care

A new review of academic papers has found that the reporting of attempts to improve the quality of care before, during, and after surgery is “suboptimal”.

Researchers from our University and Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust found that, on average, the papers were missing 43% of the elements they should have been reporting. This could significantly reduce the usefulness of these papers, and their positive impact on patient care.

The study, published this month in The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, reviewed 100 academic articles which described techniques to improve the quality and safety of surgical care. Funded by the Health Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, the review assessed each article against a checklist of items for accurate and complete reporting.

“We found that key information needed to understand what had done in the studies was often missing from articles,” said lead author Emma Jones of the Department of Health Sciences and SAPPHIRE group. “The most frequently missing information concerned whether the intervention to improve quality was actually delivered as it was supposed to be. Next, researchers often did not report whether any modifications had been made to the intervention.”

Study authors emphasised the problems caused by incomplete or inaccurate reporting, including challenges for those seeking to replicate successful interventions to improve care.