A Step-by-Step Guide to Using the Delphi Technique
What is the Delphi Technique?
The Delphi Method, or Delphi Technique, is a process used to help determine the outcome of a project based on rounds of questionnaires given to authoritative figures in a particular topic, who can offer their expert opinions freely thanks to using anonymous responses.
The Delphi Method seeks to ascertain the most likely forecast or outcome based on the results of agreement with statements in the questionnaire and provide a summary report of findings. The process continues until the panel of experts reach a group consensus, often after a first, or second round and sometimes after further rounds of survey. In a healthcare setting, the Delphi Technique can help influence change and add context to decision making.
When Should We Use Delphi Technique?
The Delphi Technique is most often employed in situations where there is no clear-cut evidence on which to rely for answers. This may include business forecasting, estimating future risks, generating new evidence, and policy making.
It is favoured by the healthcare industry when seeking to better define unmet need (e.g. identifying patients who may benefit from a given intervention), optimise healthcare practices (e.g. diagnostic criteria or treatment approach), and support with defining policy (e.g. guidelines).
How Does the Delphi Technique Work?
The Delphi Technique is an iterative process. Because of the nature of research and data collection, it bridges both qualitative and quantitative research using the group’s responses. This innate value adds to confidence and reliability in using the Delphi Method in a range of medical and healthcare settings.
Step One – Define the problem and aim of the project
In order to identify a relevant panel of experts to define a set of statements for a Delphi questionnaire, you will need to clearly define the issue you are trying to overcome, and the goal you are trying to reach. This is best clarified following a review of current evidence and guidelines.
Step Two – Employ a Delphi facilitator
To deliver a Delphi consensus appropriately, an independent facilitator is necessary to ensure correct structure, anonymity of responses and minimisation of any bias. Engaging a third party experienced in the Delphi method like Triducive for support in designing a successful Delphi Method study ensures the outcome can be relied upon and any subsequent campaign will hold credibility.
Step Three – Develop powerful statements
Delphi studies use statements that describe a position that demands an opinion on them and ask the panel to rate their level of agreement according to a Likert scale. Some studies also ask responders to attach any rationale for the response provided (particularly if this is disagreement)
When creating Delphi statements, ensure you have covered the issue you are trying to overcome from a range of angles to better define the consensus opinion of your panel.
Make sure there is only one point to consider in each Delphi statement, to reduce confusion and ensure you receive the most accurate responses.
Step Four – Engage a panel of relevant experts
The panel of experts can comprise of any person with the relevant knowledge and experience on the subject in question. This may include industry experts, consumers, staff members who would use the service or product, manufacturers, and many others.
An individual does not need a set number of years of experience or training to participate, but ensure your panel reflect the expertise you need to develop clear and focused statements on the topic in question. The minimum number of panel members needed is open to debate with some suggesting as few as 8 and one study demonstrating that the outcome from expert opinion didn’t change when the results from 23 experts were compared to a much larger sample. For areas where the total population of experts who could have an opinion is significant Triducive recommends aiming for around 100.