Using the literature to quantify the learning curve: a case study
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Objective: To assess whether a literature review of a technology can allow a learning curve to be quantified. Methods: The literature for fibreoptic intubation was searched for studies reporting information relevant to the learning curve. The Cochrane Librar y, Medline, Embase and Science Citation index were searched. Studies that reported a procedure time were included. Data were abstracted on the three features of learning: initial level, rate of learning and asymptote level. Random effect meta-analysis was performed. Results: Only 21 studies gave explicit information concerning the previous experience of the operator(s). There were 32 different definitions of procedure time. From 4 studies of fibreoptic nasotracheal intubation, the mean starting level and time for the 10th procedure (95% confidence interval) was estimated to be 133s (113, 153) and 71s (62, 79) respectively. Conclusions: The review approach allowed learning to be quantified for our example technology. Poor and insufficient reporting constrained formal statistical estimation. Standardised reporting of non-drug techniques with adequate learning curve details is needed to inform trial design and costeffectiveness analysis.
Cook, J.A., Ramsay, C.R., and Fayers, P. (2007) Using the literature to quantify the learning curve: a case study. International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care, 23(2), pp. 255-260.