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Using logic model methods in systematic review synthesis: describing complex pathways in referral management interventions

Susan K Baxter*, Lindsay Blank, Helen Buckley Woods, Nick Payne, Melanie Rimmer and Elizabeth Goyder

Author Affiliations

School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Regent Court, 30 Regent Street, Sheffield S14DA, UK

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2014, 14:62  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-14-62

Published: 10 May 2014



There is increasing interest in innovative methods to carry out systematic reviews of complex interventions. Theory-based approaches, such as logic models, have been suggested as a means of providing additional insights beyond that obtained via conventional review methods.


This paper reports the use of an innovative method which combines systematic review processes with logic model techniques to synthesise a broad range of literature. The potential value of the model produced was explored with stakeholders.


The review identified 295 papers that met the inclusion criteria. The papers consisted of 141 intervention studies and 154 non-intervention quantitative and qualitative articles. A logic model was systematically built from these studies. The model outlines interventions, short term outcomes, moderating and mediating factors and long term demand management outcomes and impacts. Interventions were grouped into typologies of practitioner education, process change, system change, and patient intervention. Short-term outcomes identified that may result from these interventions were changed physician or patient knowledge, beliefs or attitudes and also interventions related to changed doctor-patient interaction. A range of factors which may influence whether these outcomes lead to long term change were detailed. Demand management outcomes and intended impacts included content of referral, rate of referral, and doctor or patient satisfaction.


The logic model details evidence and assumptions underpinning the complex pathway from interventions to demand management impact. The method offers a useful addition to systematic review methodologies.

Trial registration number

PROSPERO registration number: CRD42013004037.

Systematic review; Methodology; Evidence synthesis; Logic model; Demand management; Referral systems; Referral management