How consumers and policymakers can use systematic reviews for decision making

Ann Intern Med. 1997 Jul 1;127(1):37-42. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-127-1-199707010-00007.


Systematic reviews can be a very useful decision-making tool because they objectively summarize large amounts of information, identify gaps in medical research, and identify beneficial or harmful interventions. Consumers can use systematic reviews to help them make health care decisions. Policymakers can use systematic reviews to help them make decisions about what types of health care to provide. Despite the potential value of systematic reviews, little evidence of their direct impact on the decisions made by consumers and policymakers is available. We discuss strategies for optimizing the use of systematic reviews by increasing the awareness and identification of reviews, learning to critically evaluate the findings of reviews, and overcoming barriers to the incorporation of reviews into the decision-making process. In addition, the participation of consumers and policymakers in the design, conduct, and reporting of systematic reviews can help to produce reviews that are relevant and understandable to target audiences. Because decisions that involve health care policies and issues are complex processes in which information (such as that provided by systematic reviews) plays only a part, strategies for increasing the use of systematic reviews should be evaluated for their usefulness in the decision-making process.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Patient Participation*
  • Review Literature as Topic*