Panel of Medical Research Experts Release Innovative Tool For Appraising the Quality of the Reliability of Diagnostic Tests

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In a first for the world of medical research, a group of four experts have unveiled the online version of the QAREL Checklist – a progressive tool developed specifically for researchers and reviewers in the field of diagnostic reliability and clinical measurement, to aid the critical appraisal of the quality of studies of reliability.

QAREL Reference Group, lead by researcher Nicholas Lucas

Release of this tool has extremely broad implications – from the patient and practitioner in the consulting room, right up to the level where politicians are deciding on health policy.

This week has heralded a new beginning for the medical research community with the online launch of a tool for the quality appraisal of reliability studies, which will aid researchers significantly in their preparation of Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses in the field of diagnostic medicine and measurement analysis. The QAREL Checklist has been developed by a collection of four esteemed researchers with expertise in diagnostic research and quality appraisal and contains eleven items that assess criteria that are essential for the quality of a study of reliability.

Originally published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology in 2010, the QAREL Checklist and data extraction form have now been made available online for free download, along with detailed instructions for use of these resources.

The highly experienced team who developed this hopes that by making it available online, researchers across the globe can use it to discover which diagnostic tests in medicine can actually be defined as ‘reliable’. Currently this vital information is missing for so many regularly performed tests – the results of which can not only change the patient’s life, but can cost the country a significant portion of its health budget.

As lead researcher and founder of the QAREL Reference Group, Nicholas Lucas reveals, “Release of this tool has extremely broad implications – from the patient and practitioner in the consulting room, right up to the level where politicians are deciding on health policy.”

“This tool has the power to help researchers identify which tests our government should pay for. Diagnostic tests cost the country millions of dollars each year. If a routine test was found through systematic review or meta-analysis to be unreliable, then this level of evidence is necessary to help make funding decisions. The government could divert these valuable funds to where they are most needed. Similarly, diagnostic tests which are shown through systematic review or meta-analysis to be reliable, accurate and useful, can be funded with confidence.”

In medical research, other tools similar to the QAREL Checklist have long been used for the evaluation of randomised controlled trials for treatment. Only more recently, however, has more attention turned to systematic reviews of reliability.

It was while conducting research at the University of Sydney, that Nicholas Lucas discovered there was no widely accepted quality appraisal tool for use in systematic reviews of reliability. For this reason, he deemed it necessary to develop and test a tool for use in his own systematic reviews, and more importantly, for widespread use in the research community.

The QAREL Checklist was developed using a panel of highly respected academics, with expertise in diagnostic research, after which a comprehensive consensus study was conducted and the tool was tested for reliability.

As Mr Lucas explains, “In the medical world, Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses are considered to be the highest level of evidence you can have on any particular topic. It is our hope that by making this quality appraisal tool available for free download online, researchers worldwide will become aware of it and use it to assist them to make advances in their varying fields of medicine and healthcare.”

For more information about the QAREL Checklist, visit

About Nicholas Lucas and the QAREL Reference Group

During the development of QAREL, Nicholas Lucas was a research fellow at the University of Sydney, prior to which he was a lecturer in musculoskeletal pain medicine. He is the founding editor of the International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine and is currently the Director of Research Media, providing continuing professional development and other training programs for health professionals and academics.

Nicholas Lucas formed the QAREL Reference Group with three other widely published medical professionals and leading researchers: Professor Petra Macaskill who is Professor of Biostatistics and Professor Les Irwig who is Professor of Epidemiology at the Screening and Test Evaluation Program, University of Sydney; and Professor Bogduk who is Conjoint Professor of Biomedical Sciences and Pharmacy at the University of Newcastle.

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Nicholas Lucas, Founder
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