The Delphi method is a qualitative tool that enables collecting experts’ opinions on a problematic topic to achieve consensus. As the literature demonstrates, this method was created and used in the late 1940s by the RAND Corporation in the United States to facilitate decision-making (Kim & Yeo, 2018). The method involves several rounds of polls; the questions are constructed and distributed to the panel of experts, the answers are analyzed, coded, and categorized in order to obtain the most relevant decision pertaining to the investigated problem. The polls are conducted anonymously, which enhances the credibility of the answers. Indeed, as Leppma et al. (2016) state, “Delphi polls have been shown to result in predictions that are more accurate than those gathered through consensus meetings held face-to-face or through a typical survey format” (p. 86).
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At the same time, this technique is not sufficiently supported by the academic circles due to the reliability issues. However, this limitation is associated primarily with the misinterpretation of the method. According to Kim and Yeo (2018), “a lack of distinct guidelines combined with a poor understanding of the Delphi method may lead to problems with the reliability, validity, and trustworthiness of findings” (313). Nonetheless, proper identification of the objectives, procedure, validity, and trustworthiness of the findings will contribute to the method’s reliability.
The research might be conducted according to critical theory, which fits the requirement of research in social sciences. When discussing the ontology of the research, the tackled research topic might be addressed from the perspective that the phenomenon of the opioid dependence is to be questioned as per its origins, manifestations, and, most importantly, management. Epistemologically, the critical theory will allow for unifying the various factors contributing to the opioid crisis in veterans, which will be essential in developing an effective action plan for pain management. The critical paradigm will allow for tackling the problem from the perspective of social indicators contributing to the problem and approach the opioid crisis in veterans from the perspective of inequality (Webster et al., 2020). The research methodology will be qualitative research with the utilization of questionnaires and polls, as designed by the Delphi method.
To integrate the Delphi method to the research on pain management in veterans with opioid dependence, the researcher will need to:
- design a set of items representing the information on pain management in veterans. The questions/items should be concise and to-the-point, their number should not be too big so that the respondents could complete a round of a poll in 10-15 minutes (Leppma et al., 2016).
- locate and contact prospective experts on the panel. This procedure might involve telephone calls to the mental health organizations working with veterans, face-to-face meetings, as well as the search using professional groups in social media (Leppma et al., 2016). The experts should be those who have at list five years of experience in the field or those who have experience in training mental health professionals for working with veterans.
- choose the best applicable experts. The individuals screened as per their qualifications and experience should be allocated to the experts’ panel. According to Leppma et al. (2016), “the appropriate sample size for a Delphi poll is around 15 to 20 participants” (p. 86).
- conduct the first round of the poll by sending out 50 items;
- analyze the data, and conduct the second round by sending out 10 top items,
- analyze the data, allocate 3-5 top items, and conduct the third round of the poll to make a decision.
Source 1: Merlin, J. S., Young, S. R., Starrels, J. L., Azari, S., Edelman, E. J., Pomeranz, J., Roy, P., Saini, S., Becker, W. C., & Liebschutz, J. M. (2018). Managing concerning behaviors in patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain: A Delphi study. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 33(2), 166-176.
The Delphi method was used to generate a consensus on the best treatment measures for patients with opioid dependence. The panel of experts included clinical experts and the participants of professional communities. It was conducted online, the first round was brainstorming, the following ones aimed at evaluating the treatment measures identified in the first round.
Source 2: Leppma, M., Taylor, J. M., Spero, R. A., Leonard, J. M., Foster, M. N., & Daniels, J. A. (2016). Working with veterans and military families: An assessment of professional competencies. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 47(1), 84-92.
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The Delphi technique was applied anonymously; the panel of experts included professionals in the field of health services providing to veterans. The Delphi method was conducted in three rounds. A $30 Amazon gift card rewarded the completion of all three rounds.
Source 3: van Ee, E. (2018). Multi-family therapy for veteran and refugee families: a Delphi study. Military Medical Research, 5(1), 1-6.
The Delphi method was conducted by using open questions sent to an expert panel consisting of therapists working with veterans and refugees. Three rounds were conducted to gain consensus in the best therapeutic techniques with the agreement on relevance at 75%.
Kim, C. H., & Yeo, K. (2018). Beyond consensus: A review of Delphi research published in Malaysian social science journals. International Journal of Business & Society, 19(2), 312-323.
Merlin, J. S., Young, S. R., Starrels, J. L., Azari, S., Edelman, E. J., Pomeranz, J., Roy, P., Saini, S., Becker, W. C., & Liebschutz, J. M. (2018). Managing concerning behaviors in patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain: A Delphi study. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 33(2), 166-176.
Leppma, M., Taylor, J. M., Spero, R. A., Leonard, J. M., Foster, M. N., & Daniels, J. A. (2016). Working with veterans and military families: An assessment of professional competencies. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 47(1), 84-92.
van Ee, E. (2018). Multi-family therapy for veteran and refugee families: a Delphi study. Military Medical Research, 5(1), 1-6.
Webster, F., Rice, K., & Sud, A. (2020). A critical content analysis of media reporting on opioids: The social construction of an epidemic. Social Science & Medicine, 244, 112642. Web.