Reporting of observational studies explicitly aiming to emulate randomized trials: a systematic review
Importance: Observational (nonexperimental) studies that aim to emulate a randomized trial (ie, the target trial) are increasingly informing medical and policy decision-making, but it is unclear how these studies are reported in the literature. Consistent reporting is essential for quality appraisal, evidence synthesis, and translation of evidence to policy and practice.
Objective: To assess the reporting of observational studies that explicitly aimed to emulate a target trial.
Evidence review: We searched Medline, Embase, PsycINFO, and Web of Science for observational studies published between March 2012 and October 2022 that explicitly aimed to emulate a target trial of a health or medical intervention. Two reviewers double-screened and -extracted data on study characteristics, key predefined components of the target trial protocol and its emulation (eligibility criteria, treatment strategies, treatment assignment, outcome[s], follow-up, causal contrast[s], and analysis plan), and other items related to the target trial emulation.
Findings: A total of 200 studies that explicitly aimed to emulate a target trial were included. These studies included 26 subfields of medicine, and 168 (84%) were published from January 2020 to October 2022. The aim to emulate a target trial was explicit in 70 study titles (35%). Forty-three studies (22%) reported use of a published reporting guideline (eg, Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology). Eighty-five studies (43%) did not describe all key items of how the target trial was emulated and 113 (57%) did not describe the protocol of the target trial and its emulation.
Conclusion and relevance: In this systematic review of 200 studies that explicitly aimed to emulate a target trial, reporting of how the target trial was emulated was inconsistent. A reporting guideline for studies explicitly aiming to emulate a target trial may improve the reporting of the target trial protocols and other aspects of these emulation attempts.
Australian NHMRC Postgraduate Scholarship
PhD Top-Up Scholarship from Neuroscience Research Australia
Mrs Sandra Salteri
Australian NHMRC Investigator Grant (identification No. 2010088)
Australian NHMRC Investigator Grant (identification No. 2009572)
Australian NHMRC Investigator Grant (identification No. 2010128)
NIH (grant No. R00 CA248335)
NIH (grants Nos. R01 AI152772-01 and 5U01-AI069924-05
Swiss National Science Foundation (32FP30-174281)
National Institute for Health and Care Research (grant No. HDRUK2022.0313)
UK Office for National Statistics (No. 2002563)
NIH (grant No. R37 AI102634)
Providence/Boston Center for AIDS Research (grant No. P30AI042853)
CommentsThe original article is available at https://jamanetwork.com/
Published CitationHansford HJ. et al. Reporting of observational studies explicitly aiming to emulate randomized trials: a systematic review. JAMA Netw Open. 2023;6(9):e2336023.
Publication Date27 September 2023
- Public Health and Epidemiology
- School of Population Health
PublisherAmerican Medical Association
- Published Version (Version of Record)