Is a Delphi Study Right for You?

Posted: 10th July 2023
Categories: Delphi Method

Is a Delphi Study Right for You?


What is the Delphi Method?

The Delphi method or Delphi technique is a systematic, structured communication technique which relies on a panel of experts. It can be employed to achieve expert consensus where there is a weight of opinion or a lack of empiric evidence. Delphi consensus studies provide credible and practical evidence that can also help engage the target audience in the conclusion/recommendations due to participation by their constituent roles.

Delphi relies on expert opinion to identify areas of consensus on which decisions or recommendations can be based. The resulting outputs are considered level 4 evidence.

This article aims to help you determine if the Delphi method could be the research solution you’ve been looking for to generate healthcare evidence.


Is currently available evidence limited, conflicting or ambiguous?

The Delphi method may be used when the available evidence is incomplete or inconclusive and other methods of providing higher levels of evidence cannot be used. This can regularly be seen in rare disease therapy areas, where limited patient numbers can reduce the potential for traditional studies to be conclusive (or even practical to deliver). In many other disease areas, there may be conflicting guidance, evidence or practice where another traditional study or review would add little consolidation. In this case expert consensus can be used to provide a more definitive conclusion.


Do you need a rapid and efficient solution?

Delphi consensus lends itself well to the virtual setting providing the flexibility to hold steering meetings with core groups in multiple geographies at times that fit around their busy schedules. Additionally, online surveys for the wider Delphi panel are a very efficient way to develop the dataset. Studies are well structured but do not involve patient intervention and so are not usually subject to ethics approval and do not depend on recruitment and management of large numbers of participants. This means that the approach is highly cost-efficient and timelines for delivery of a Delphi consensus are comparatively short compared to other research methodologies. With good planning and facilitation it is possible to complete a study in around 6-7 months.

While randomised controlled studies are often seen as the most robust way to answer a clinical question, they may not always be practical or appropriate for the question in hand. The same can also be said for a retrospective review of registry data or post-hoc analysis of existing study data.  These types of studies tend to have a very narrow focus (and necessarily so). They can also fail to accommodate sufficiently real-world or practical aspects of disease management and can be incredibly time-consuming to deliver.


Does your research question apply to a range of stakeholder types?

If the results of the research are likely to apply to a range of stakeholders and action is needed from this diverse group to drive changes then it can be helpful to appeal to constituents by designing a study that takes account of each perspective. The application of Delphi consensus can elicit and validate expert opinion from a range of stakeholder types. This means that where multi-disciplinary effort may be required around a given activity the full range of perspectives can be incorporated. This can help ensure stronger buy-in to study conclusions by the whole multi-disciplinary group, resulting in desired changes. The method can be used just as effectively when there is only one stakeholder type where expert opinion is needed.


Is the ultimate objective of your research work any one of the following?

  • Define a new standard of care or approach to care?
  • Optimise healthcare practices in line with existing policy?
  • Support new healthcare policy or identify gaps in existing policy?
The outputs derived from a Delphi study can and should be communicated (and campaigned using complementary activities) to achieve the ultimate desired outcome. Publishing the outputs from a study delivered using the Delphi method is the first step in effecting change. The impact of the publication can be amplified by developing tailored materials for different stakeholder audiences involved in the implementation of the recommendations.


If the answer to any of the above is ‘yes’, why not get in touch to discuss how Triducive could design a Delphi-based consensus and campaign to support your goals?


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