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Chart-stimulated recall (CSR) is a case-based interviewing technique, which is used in the assessment of clinical decision-making in medical education and professional certification. Increasingly, clinical decision-making is a concern for clinical research in primary care. In this study, we review the prior application and utility of CSR as a technique for research interviews in primary care.
Following Arksey & O’Malley’s method for scoping reviews, we searched seven databases, grey literature, reference lists, and contacted experts in the field. We excluded studies on medical education or competence assessment. Retrieved citations were screened by one reviewer and full texts were ordered for all potentially relevant abstracts. Two researchers independently reviewed full texts and performed data extraction and quality appraisal if inclusion criteria were met. Data were collated and summarised using a published framework on the reporting of qualitative interview techniques, which was chosen a priori. The preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines informed the review report.
From an initial list of 789 citations, eight studies using CSR in research interviews were included in the review: six from North America, one from the Netherlands, and one from Ireland. The most common purpose of included studies was to examine the influence of guidelines on physicians’ decisions. The number of interviewees ranged from seven to twenty nine, while the number of charts discussed per interview ranged from one to twelve. CSR gave insights into physicians’ reasoning for actions taken or not taken; the unrecorded social and clinical influences on decisions; and discrepancies between physicians’ real and perceived practice. Ethical concerns and the training and influence of the researcher were poorly discussed in most of the studies. Potential pitfalls included the risk of recall, selection and observation biases.
Despite the proven validity, reliability and acceptability of CSR in assessment interviews in medical education, its use in clinical research is limited. Application of CSR in qualitative research brings interview data closer to the reality of practice. Although further development of the approach is required, we recommend a role for CSR in research interviews on decision-making in clinical practice.