We conducted a systematic review of both the peer-reviewed published literature and unpublished materials (e.g ., official CMS and other agency reports and documents; trade publications; publications by advocacy, watchdog, and other stakeholder organizations; and congressional testimony). The key benefits of using a systematic evidence-based approach over a standard literature review are (1) the systematic approach can withstand scrutiny because the literature selection and abstraction process is not biased and (2) because it is designed to answer specific questions, this approach clearly focuses on the information needed for the review.
We focused our search of the peer-reviewed literature on manuscripts published from January 1998 (the first year the Medicare & You handbook was distributed) through December 2006. Unpublished materials were limited to those available through the Internet, directly from CMS, or from the project team’s libraries from September through December 2006. Included studies were limited to those evaluating NMEP activities; we excluded other CMS evaluations that may be considered to be related to beneficiary education activities if they were not identified as part of NMEP. Given this criterion, we erred on the side of inclusion; the abstractor and the task leader reviewed the studies and determined whether they met our inclusion criteria. Similarly, the task leader reviewed abstractions of all included studies to ensure they were accurate and complete. We reviewed a total of 53 studies.