Critical Care Medicine (Canada) PSP protocol


Published: 23 January 2024

Version: 2

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Purpose of the PSP and background

The purpose of this protocol is to clearly set out the aims, objectives and commitments of the Critical Care Medicine Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) in line with James Lind Alliance (JLA) principles. The Protocol is a JLA requirement and will be published on the PSP’s page of the JLA website. The Steering Group will review the Protocol regularly and any updated version will be sent to the JLA.

The JLA is a non-profit making initiative, established in 2004. It brings patients, families and clinicians together in PSPs. These PSPs identify and prioritise the evidence uncertainties, or ‘unanswered questions’, that they agree are the most important for research in their topic area. Traditionally PSPs have focused on uncertainties about the effects of treatments, but some PSPs have chosen to broaden their scope beyond that. The aim of a PSP is to help ensure that those who fund health research are aware of what really matters to patients, families and clinicians. The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) coordinates the infrastructure of the JLA to oversee the processes for PSPs, based at the NIHR Coordinating Centre (NIHRCC), University of Southampton.

Critical care medicine (both adult and pediatric) is a multi-disciplinary speciality, where patients are cared for by a team of highly skilled and trained professionals. Patients and families are essential to the decision making proess in critical care. The Canadian Critical Care Trials Group are world leaders in patient and family engagement in critical care practice and research. Following the waves of illness seen with COVID-19, new focus is needed to determine priorities for research and funding going forward.

Aims, objectives and scope of the PSP

The aim of the Critical Care Medicine PSP is to identify the unanswered questions about Critical Care Medicine from patient, family (i.e., caregivers, relatives, friends, members of the support network) and clinical perspectives and then prioritise those that patients, family and clinicians agree are the most important for research to address.

The objectives of the PSP are to:

  • work with patients, family and clinicians to identify uncertainties about admission to, care in, and outcomes after ICU stays
  • to agree by consensus a prioritised list of those uncertainties, for research
  • to publicise the results of the PSP and process
  • to take the results to research commissioning bodies to be considered for funding.

The scope of the Critical Care Medicine PSP is defined as:

  • Inclusive of sociocultural (e.g., social determinants of health), personal (e.g., genetic risks), and geographic/environmental (e.g., rural and remote) factors that affect who is admitted to ICU, access to ICUs, and post-ICU outcomes.
  • ICU admission: Who benefits most from ICU admission? Who should be admitted? Who is admitted?
  • Processes of care, care delivery, outcomes, etc… in ICUs (e.g., shared decision making, treatments, technologies, diagnostic tools, adverse events, end of life, length of stay, organ donation)
  • Outcomes after ICU (e.g., mental health, functional outcomes, cognitive outcomes, return to work, care supports)

The PSP will exclude from its scope questions about:

  • Care provided in the community, emergency department or inpatient units before or following an ICU admission
  • Step-down or intermediate care units
  • Transport medicine

The Steering Group is responsible for discussing what implications the scope of the PSP will have for the evidence-checking stage of the process. Resources and expertise will be put in place to do this evidence checking.

The Steering Group

The Steering Group includes membership of patients and family and clinicians , as individuals or representatives from a relevant group.

The Critical Care Medicine PSP will be led and managed by a Steering Group involving the following:

Patient and family representative/s

Hailey Bain
Marie-Maxime Bergeron
Kirsten Fiest
Shannon McKenney
Marcia Reid
Kristine Russell

Clinical representative/s

Karen Burns, Adult Intensivist, Unity Health
Michelle Kho, Adult ICU Physiotherapist, McMaster University
Francois Lamontagne, Adult Intensivist, Université de Sherbrooke
Laurie Lee, Pediatric ICU Nurse Practioner, Alberta Children’s Hospital
Kusum Menon, Pediatric Intensivist, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario
Srinivas Murthy, Pediatric Intensivist, University of British Columbia
Jennifer Tsang, Adult Intensivist, Niagara Health

Project coordinator

Kristine Russell, University of Calgary

Information specialist

Karla Krewulak, University of Calgary

James Lind Alliance Adviser and Chair of the Steering Group

Tamara Rader, JLA

The Steering Group will agree on the resources, including time and expertise that they will be able to contribute to each stage of the process, with input and advice from the JLA.


Organisations and individuals will be invited to be involved with the PSP as partners. Partners are organisations or groups who will commit to supporting the PSP, promoting the process and encouraging their represented groups or members to participate. Organisations which can reach and advocate for these groups will be invited to become involved in the PSP. Partners represent the following groups:

  • people who have been admitted to an adult or pediatric intensive care unit
  • family of people who have been admitted to an adult or pediatric intensive care unit
  • health and social care professionals - with experience in adult or pediatric critical care medicine

Exclusion criteria

Some organisations (e.g., pharmaceutical companies, device manufacturers) may have conflicts of interest. These may be perceived to potentially cause unacceptable bias as a member of the Steering Group. As this is likely to affect the ultimate findings of the PSP, those organisations will not be invited to participate. It is possible, however, that interested parties may participate in a purely observational capacity when the Steering Group considers it may be helpful.

The methods the PSP will use

This section describes a schedule of proposed steps through which the PSP aims to meet its objectives. The process is iterative and dependent on the active participation and contribution of different groups. The methods used in any step will be agreed through consultation between the Steering Group members, guided by the PSP’s aims and objectives. More details of the method are in the Guidebook section of the JLA website where examples of the work of other JLA PSPs can be seen.

Step 1: Identification and invitation of potential partners

Potential partner organisations will be identified through a process of peer knowledge and consultation, through the Steering Group members’ networks. Potential partners will be contacted and informed of the establishment and aims of the Critical Care Medicine PSP.

Step 2: Awareness raising

PSPs will need to raise awareness of their proposed activity among their patient, family and clinician communities, in order to secure support and participation. Depending on budget, this may be done by a face-to-face meeting, or there may be other ways in which the process can be launched, e.g. via social media. It may be carried out as part of steps 1 and/or 3. The Steering Group should advise on when to do this. Awareness raising has several key objectives:

  • to present the proposed plan for the PSP
  • to generate support for the process
  • to encourage participation in the process
  • to initiate discussion, answer questions and address concerns.

Step 3: Identifying evidence uncertainties

The Critical Care Medicine PSP will carry out a consultation to gather uncertainties from patients, families and clinicians. A period of 18 months will be given to complete this exercise (which may be revised by the Steering Group if required).

The Critical Care Medicine PSP recognises that the following groups may require additional consideration: Indigenous people, including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit and people whose primary language is not English or French. We will connect with the CCCTG Indigenous Engagement and Liaison Manager.

The Steering Group will use the following methods to reach the target groups [i.e., charitable organizations, hospital support networks including patient and family committees, research groups with patient partners (e.g., Sepsis Canada, CCCTG), professional organizations (e.g., CACCN, CSRT, CCCS), CMAJ editorial board].

  • Online surveys
  • Paper surveys
  • QR codes linking to online survey
  • Town halls at conferences to advertise survey
  • Social media to find participants
  • Indigenous liaison partnerships

Existing sources of evidence uncertainties may also be searched. We will also search research recommendations in systematic reviews and clinical guidelines and protocols for systematic reviews being prepared and registers of ongoing research.

Step 4: Refining questions and uncertainties

The consultation process will produce ‘raw’ questions and comments indicating patients’, families’ and clinicians’ areas of uncertainty. These raw questions will be categorised and refined by Kristine, Karla, Kirsten, & Srin into summary questions which are clear, addressable by research, and understandable to all. Similar or duplicate questions will be combined where appropriate. Out-of-scope and ‘answered’ submissions will be compiled separately. The Steering Group will have oversight of this process to ensure that the raw data is being interpreted appropriately and that the summary questions are being worded in a way that is understandable to all audiences. The JLA Adviser will observe to ensure accountability and transparency.

This will result in a long list of in-scope summary questions. These are not research questions and to try and word them as such may make them too technical for a non-research audience. They will be framed as researchable questions that capture the themes and topics that people have suggested.

The summary questions will then be checked against evidence to determine whether they have already been answered by research. This will be done by Kristine and Karla. The PSP will complete the JLA Question Verification Form, which clearly describes the process used to verify the uncertainty of the questions, before starting prioritisation. The Question Verification Form includes details of the types and sources of evidence used to check uncertainty. The Question Verification Form should be published on the JLA website as soon as it has been agreed to enable researchers and other stakeholders to understand how the PSP has decided that its questions are unanswered, and any limitations of this.

Questions that are not adequately addressed by previous research will be collated and recorded on a standard JLA template by Kristine and Karla. This will show the checking undertaken to make sure that the uncertainties have not already been answered. The data should be submitted to the JLA for publication on its website on completion of the priority setting exercise, taking into account any changes made at the final workshop, in order to ensure that PSP results are publicly available.

The Steering Group will also consider how it will deal with submitted questions that have been answered, and questions that are out of scope.

Step 5: Prioritisation – interim and final stages

The aim of the final stage of the priority setting process is to prioritise through consensus the identified uncertainties about Critical Care Medicine. This will involve input from patients, families and clinicians. The JLA encourages PSPs to involve as wide a range of people as possible, including those who did and did not contribute to the first consultation. There are usually two stages of prioritisation.

  1. Interim prioritisation is the stage where the long list of questions is reduced to a shorter list that can be taken to the final priority setting workshop. This is aimed at a wide audience, and is done using similar methods to the first consultation. With the JLA’s guidance, the Steering Group will agree the method and consider how best to reach and engage patients, families and clinicians in the process. The most highly ranked questions (around 25) will be taken to a final priority setting workshop. Where the interim prioritisation does not produce a clear ranking or cut off point, the Steering Group will decide which questions are taken forwards to the final prioritisation.

  2. The final priority setting stage is generally a one-day workshop facilitated by the JLA. With guidance from the JLA and input from the Steering Group, up to 30 patients, families and clinicians will be recruited to participate in a day of discussion and ranking, to determine the top 10 questions for research. All participants will declare their interests. The Steering Group will advise on any adaptations needed to ensure that the process is inclusive and accessible.

Dissemination of results

The Steering Group will identify audiences with which it wants to engage when disseminating the results of the priority setting process, such as researchers, funders and the patient and clinical communities. They will need to determine how best to communicate the results and who will take responsibility for this. Previous PSPs’ outputs have included academic papers, lay reports, infographics, conference presentations and videos for social media.

It should be noted that the priorities are not worded as research questions. The Steering Group should discuss how they will work with researchers and funders to establish how to address the priorities and to work out what the research questions are that will address the issues that people have prioritised. The dissemination of the results of the PSP will be led by the Steering Committee.

The JLA encourages PSPs to report back about any activities that have come about because of the PSP, including funded research. Please send any details to the JLA.

Agreement of the Steering Group

The Critical Care Medicine PSP Steering Group agreed the content and direction of this Protocol on November 20, 2023.