Interpreting systematic review findings

Date & Time
Tuesday, September 5, 2023, 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Location Name
Session Type
Workshop - training
Understanding and using evidence
Target audience
People using systematic reviews, guidelines or health assessments, including consumers and health-decision makers
Level of difficulty

Background: Systematic reviews are considered the gold standard of evidence for health professionals and are increasingly used to support decision-making in health care. Understanding review results is of paramount importance in translating research evidence into clinical practice. Critical thinking needs to be applied to read and/or use a systematic review, as interpretation of findings can be quite challenging when the available evidence is inconclusive or uncertain.
Objectives: 1) To introduce the concept of clinical significance; 2) to explain the rationale behind the certainty of the evidence; 3) to give a brief overview of the “Summary of findings” table; and 4) to reflect on translating the results of systematic reviews into clinical practice.
Description: This workshop will appeal most directly to new review authors and users of systematic reviews, including patients and their caregivers. We will give a short presentation at the beginning of the workshop (15 minutes) to outline the scope of the session and introduce key concepts. Then, participants will work in small groups under the guidance of the facilitators. We will try to ensure each group is formed by people with different backgrounds and expertise to bring different views and perspectives to the discussion. Based on specific clinical scenarios, we will use practical examples extracted from Cochrane reviews and Cochrane Clinical Answers. The groups will have time to read, think about the interpretation of the results, and discuss the implications for practice and/or further research. Each group will then share the work done with the participants. We will stimulate the debate on key issues, such as the relevance of outcome selection, basic interpretation of continuous and binary outcome measures, magnitude of the effects, importance of measuring heterogeneity, and impact of the risk of bias of included studies. One laptop per working group is needed.