Improving GRADE evidence tables part 1: a randomized trial shows improved understanding of content in summary of findings tables with a new format

J Clin Epidemiol. 2016 Jun:74:7-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2015.12.007. Epub 2016 Jan 11.


Objectives: The current format of summary of findings (SoFs) tables for presenting effect estimates and associated quality of evidence improve understanding and assist users finding key information in systematic reviews. Users of SoF tables have demanded alternative formats to express findings from systematic reviews.

Study design and setting: We conducted a randomized controlled trial among systematic review users to compare the relative merits of a new format with the current formats of SoF tables regarding understanding, accessibility of information, satisfaction, and preference. Our primary goal was to show that the new format is not inferior to the current format.

Results: Of 390 potentially eligible subjects, 290 were randomized. Of seven items testing understanding, three showed similar results, two showed small differences favoring the new format, and two (understanding risk difference and quality of the evidence associated with a treatment effect) showed large differences favoring the new format [63% (95% confidence interval {CI}: 55, 71) and 62% (95% CI: 52, 71) more correct answers, respectively]. Respondents rated information in the alternative format as more accessible overall and preferred the new format over the current format.

Conclusions: While providing at least similar levels of understanding for some items and increased understanding for others, users prefer the new format of SoF tables.

Trial registration: NCT02022631.

Keywords: Evidence summaries; Evidence tables; Formatting; GRADE; GRADEpro; Guidelines; Summary of findings table; Systematic reviews; Understanding.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Comprehension*
  • Consumer Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Research Report / standards*
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • Young Adult

Associated data