Objectives: The aim of this study was to examine location of systematic reviews of test accuracy in five specialist review databases: York CRD's DARE and HTA databases, Medion (University of Maastricht), C-EBLM (International Federation of Clinical Chemistry), and the ARIF in-house database (University of Birmingham).
Methods: Searches were limited to the period 1996–2006. Test accuracy reviews were located using in-house diagnostic search filters and with help from database producers where databases were not confined to test accuracy reviews. References were coded according to disease area, review purpose, and test application. Ease of use, volume, overlap, and content of databases was noted.
Results: A large degree of overlap existed between databases. Medion contained the largest number (n = 672) and the largest number of unique (n = 328) test accuracy references. A combination of three databases identified only 76% of test reviews. All databases were rated as easy to search but varied with respect to timeliness and compatibility with reference management software. Most reviews evaluated test accuracy (85%) but the HTA database had a larger proportion of cost-effectiveness and screening reviews and C-EBLM more reviews addressing early test development. Most reviews were conducted in secondary care settings.
Conclusions: Specialist review databases offer an essential addition to general bibliographic databases where application of diagnostic method filters can compromise search sensitivity. Important differences exist between databases in terms of ease of use and content. Our findings raise the question whether the current balance of research setting, in particular the predominance of research on tests used in secondary care, matches the needs of decision makers.