The scenario technique is a method for future research and for strategic planning. Today, it includes both qualitative and quantitative elements. The aims of this scoping review are to give an overview of the application of the scenario method in the fields of health care and to make suggestions for better reporting in future scenario projects.
Between January 2013 and October 2013 we conducted a systematic search in the databases Medline, Embase, PsycInfo, Eric, The Cochrane Library, Scopus, Web of Science, and Cinahl since inception for the term 'scenario(s)' in combination with other terms, e.g. method, model, and technique. Our search was not restricted by date or language. In addition, we screened the reference lists of the included articles.
A total of 576 bibliographical records were screened. After removing duplicates and three rounds of screening, 41 articles covering 38 different scenario projects were included for the final analysis. Nine of the included articles addressed disease related issues, led by mental health and dementia (n = 4), and followed by cancer (n = 3). Five scenario projects focused on public health issues at an organizational level and five focused on the labor market for different health care professionals. In addition, four projects dealt with health care 'in general', four with the field of biotechnology and personalized medicine, and additional four with other technology developments. Some of the scenario projects suffered from poor reporting of methodological aspects.
Despite its potential, use of the scenario method seems to be published rarely in comparison to other methods such as the Delphi-technique, at least in the field of health care. This might be due to the complexity of the methodological approach. Individual project methods and activities vary widely and are poorly reported. Improved criteria are required for reporting of scenario project methods. With improved standards and greater transparency, the scenario method will be a good tool for scientific health care planning and strategic decision-making in public health.