Introduction: In 1988 at the Lyon University Hospital, a group of university staff got together to form the first "Groupe Synthese". The aim of this group was to promote the understanding of methods for synthesising therapeutic information (systematic reviews), and provide help to those wishing to undertake a review. The group meets every two months and the meeting is open to clinicians and residents. Attendees are invited to present their project, and are given help in developing a protocol for the systematic review. Assistance for the methodological aspects, particularly statistics, are available from experienced members of the group. Over ten reviews have been produced by members of the group in various areas, e.g. controlled low protein diets in chronic renal insufficiency, low molecular heparin in the prevention of perioperative thrombosis, etc. In 1994, this approach was extended throughout France, using an existing Clinical Pharmacology Network as a starting base for contacting possible collaborators in other University hospitals. In December 1994 a meeting was held in Lyon to explain how these groups will work and as of April 1995 29 "Groupe Synthese" units have been established. These groups will inform those in their university hospitals and surroundings about the Cochrane Collaboration and will give the necessary information to interested parties, so that they can contact the relevant review group (if this exists) or others who have expressed an interest in setting up a review group (if this does not exist). Thus the "Groupe Synthese" units will play an important role not only in providing local technical assistance, but also in providing communication channels between the Cochrane Collaboration, and the practising practitioners. This communication channel will also serve for the dissemination of the results from the systematic reviews. This type of local implantation will help because the people involved are locally known and respected, and thus any messages they pass on, will be more readily accepted by their colleagues. The university base of this network will enable the therapeutic information obtained from the various systematic reviews to be diffused to doctors in training, and also to practising doctors who will be contacted by the university continuing education programs. Although this approach has not been tested it might be usefully employed in other countries, as a geographic complement to the collaborative review group within the Cochrane Collaboration.
A network for working nationally within the Cochrane Collaboration: the "Groupe Synthese" network
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