Validation of descriptive clinical pathway criteria in the systematic identification of publications in emergency medicine

Raffi Adjemian*, Atbin Moradi Zirkohi, Robin Coombs, Sharon Mickan, Christian Vaillancourt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Heterogeneity in both the definition and terminology of clinical pathways presents a challenge to the systematic identification of primary studies for review purposes. Recently developed clinical pathway identification criteria may facilitate both the identification and assessment of clinical pathway studies. The goal of this publication is the validation of these five criteria in a descriptive systematic review of actively implemented clinical pathway studies in the emergency department setting. The main outcome measure is the inter-rater agreement of investigators using the clinical pathway criteria. Methods: We performed a systematic literature search from 2006 to 2015 using MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, and CINAHL. All types of prospective trial designs were eligible. We identified relevant publications using the above-mentioned clinical pathway criteria. Two reviewers independently collected data using a piloted data abstraction tool. Results: We identified 5947 publications, with 472 potentially relevant full text publications retrieved. Of these, 357 did not meet preliminary study inclusion criteria, leaving 115 publications where the clinical pathway criteria were applied. Ultimately, 44 publications were included. The inter-rater agreement of the criteria was very good (κ = 0.81, 95% Confidence Interval = 0.70–0.92). The vast majority of studies were excluded because the intervention did not meet the criterion of being multidisciplinary in nature. Conclusion: These criteria are a useful instrument to reliably identify clinical pathway publications for systematic review purposes in an emergency department setting. Future modification of these criteria may improve their usefulness. Particular attention should be placed on clarifying what is meant by multidisciplinary involvement within the context of clinical pathway interventions, with specific emphasis placed on delineating the level of involvement of each discipline and their decision-making responsibility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-56
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Care Coordination
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


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