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Background: There is an extensive body of literature on health system quality reporting that has yet to be characterized. Scoping is a novel methodology for systematically assessing the breadth of a body of literature in a particular research area. Our objectives were to showcase the scoping review methodology in the review of health system quality reporting, and to report on the extent of the literature in this area.Methods: A scoping review was performed based on the York methodology outlined by Arksey and O'Malley from the University of York, United Kingdom. We searched 14 peer reviewed and grey literature databases limiting the search to English language and non-English language articles with English abstracts published between 1980 and June 2006 with an update to November 2008. We also searched specific websites, reference lists, and key journals for relevant material and solicited input from key stakeholders. Inclusion/exclusion criteria were applied to select relevant material and qualitative information was charted from the selected literature.Results: A total of 10,102 articles were identified from searching the literature databases, 821 were deemed relevant to our scoping review. An additional 401 were identified from updates, website searching, references lists, key journals, and stakeholder suggestions for a total of 1,222 included articles. These were categorized and catalogued according to the inclusion criteria, and further subcategories were identified through the charting process. Topic areas represented by this review included the effectiveness of health system report cards (n = 194 articles), methodological issues in their development (n = 815 articles), stakeholder views on report cards (n = 144 articles), and ethical considerations around their development (n = 69 articles).Conclusions: The scoping review methodology has permitted us to characterize and catalogue the extensive body of literature pertaining to health system report cards. The resulting literature repository that our review has created can be of use to researchers and health system stakeholders interested in the topic of health system quality measurement and reporting. © 2010 Brien et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

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