We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Retrospective Study?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Retrospective study can be defined in several different ways. It is often seen as a “looking backward in time,” to determine causal factors, but how study data or participants get selected can vary greatly. For instance, a chart audit could be a form of retrospective study, in which all people chosen were those that had some disease or other factor in common. Alternately, a study could look at the deaths of a number of people and try to retrospectively determine cause. In either case, this can’t be a double blind or well-selected study because the study wasn’t designed before the events occurred.

Chart audit is a good example of a retrospective study because it attempts to gather information about events that occurred and determine if a pattern of problems in medical treatment emerge. These audits don’t necessarily involve any interaction with patients, but they might or they might involve interviews with medical workers. Such studies could try to find the cause of continued infections, high incidence of disease, low patient satisfaction rate, or many other things, and they do so by analyzing what medical charts reveal and by searching for more data.

In some cases, it’s very easy for a chart audit to provide conclusive information on things. For example, if a doctor at a hospital is failing to write down medicine allergies, and there is a sudden upsurge in anaphylactic responses in patients, it can be pretty clear where the problem lies. Sometimes the matter isn’t as simple, like the sudden increase in percentage points of hospital deaths. It may not always be possible to conclude from data in the past whether these are at all related, and the answers may be more hypothesis than true conclusions due to inadequate information. Mysteries may stay mysteries because the experiment was designed after the fact.

With many other forms of the retrospective study, this is one of the downfalls. Since the event has already occurred, it has created its own group of participants in a less than scientific way. It’s impossible to rigorously apply the same study participant tests to make certain there aren’t huge variables in participants that will mar or blur any data results. This doesn’t mean the retrospective study is not worthwhile, but it may mean conclusions drawn from it are less scientific or more subject to scrutiny.

On the other hand, some studies must always be retrospective. For instance, those trying to determine the cause of heart defects would identify only those people with them and draw from that group to evaluate cause. This is also called a case-control study, and sometimes researchers would develop a second group of study participants who did not have heart defects and ask the same types of questions or perform the same tests on both groups. This would allow for comparison of the data, which if found identical, would clearly not indicate a particular causal faction.

Case-control is still a look-back or a retrospective study because participants are those with a specific outcome that has already occurred. In a way, this is actually a greater control than randomly surveying people who might have heart defects. The case-control study might show any features in common amount those with heart defects and conclusions could thus be drawn about its cause, if the right factors are evaluated or the right questions asked.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.