Are Cochrane reviews for end users of healthcare services? The results of an international survey

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Wale J, Belizan M, Lyddiatt A, Vij S

Background: A Cochrane Collaboration Steering Group funded Prioritisation Project (2007) was awarded to the Cochrane Consumer Network (CCNet) to prioritise existing Cochrane reviews from a consumer, patient and carer perspective as a means of promoting evidence-based health care and improve health outcomes. Objectives: To develop accessible databases of existing reviews of particular interest to consumers; to promote their user friendliness with clear messages that are up-to-date. Methods: An online survey was used to rank existing reviews in a particular health condition. A survey of responses on the relevance of criteria for assessing Cochrane review titles was used as a marker for any differences caused by the different backgrounds of respondents. A total of 522 valid responses were received from many countries. Approximately half described themselves as patients, consumer advocates or carers. The next largest group (20%) was health providers. Results: The prioritised reviews from 19 Cochrane Review Groups, with sufficient responses, were assessed and a short statement was prepared using the conclusions, plain language summaries and abstracts; they were linked to Cochrane Field resources. The titles were further presented under questions relevant to decision making. A comparison was made with the Wiley list of most accessed reviews in The Cochrane Library. A large overlap was noted. Conclusions: Consumers are a very small section of visitors to The Cochrane Library in surveys carried out by Wiley. The present findings raise an important question as to who (or for who) the main users of The Cochrane Library are, and why they are using it. Answers to these questions are important in addressing how Cochrane reviews can improve health outcomes. Website: happenings.htm.