Communication and Dissemination Strategies To Facilitate the Use of Health-Related Evidence

This review examines how to best communicate and disseminate evidence to inform health care decisions.

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Structured Abstract

Objectives: This review examined how to best communicate and disseminate evidence, including uncertain evidence, to inform health care decisions. The review focused on three primary objectives—comparing the effectiveness of: 

  1. Communicating evidence in various contents and formats that increase the likelihood that target audiences will both understand and use the information (KQ 1).
  2. A variety of approaches for disseminating evidence from those who develop it to those who are expected to use it (KQ 2).
  3. Various ways of communicating uncertainty-associated health-related evidence to different target audiences (KQ 3). 

A secondary objective was to examine how the effectiveness of communication and dissemination strategies varies across target audiences, including evidence translators, health educators, patients, and clinicians.

Data sources: We searched MEDLINE®, the Cochrane Library, Cochrane Central Trials Registry, PsycINFO®, and the Web of Science. We used a variety of medical subject headings (MeSH terms) and major headings, and used free-text and title and abstract text-word searches. The search was limited to studies on humans published from 2000 to March 15, 2013, for communication and dissemination, given the prior systematic reviews, and from 1966 to March 15, 2013, for communicating uncertainty..

Review methods: We used standard Evidence-based Practice Center methods of dual review of abstracts, full-text articles, and abstractions, and quality ratings and group consensus to resolve disagreements. We used group consensus to grade strength of evidence.

Results: The search identified 4,152 articles (after removing duplicates) for all three KQs. After dual review at the title/abstract stage and full-text review stage, we retained 61 articles that directly (i.e., head to head) compared strategies to communicate and disseminate evidence. Across the KQs, many of the comparisons yielded insufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions. For KQ 1, we found that investigators frequently blend more than one communication strategy in interventions. For KQ 2, we found that, compared with single dissemination strategies, multicomponent dissemination strategies are more effective at enhancing clinician behavior, particularly for guideline adherence. Key findings for KQ 3 indicate that evidence on communicating overall strength of recommendation and precision was insufficient, but certain ways of communicating directness and net benefit may be helpful in reducing uncertainty.

Conclusions. The lack of comparative research evidence to inform communication and dissemination of evidence, including uncertain evidence, impedes timely clinician, patient, and policymaker awareness, uptake, and use of evidence to improve the quality of care. Expanding investment in communication, dissemination, and implementation research is critical to the identification of strategies to accelerate the translation of comparative effectiveness research into community and clinical practice and the direct benefit of patient care.

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Communication and Dissemination Strategies To Facilitate the Use of Health-Related Evidence

Evidence-based Practice Center: RTI International-University of North Carolina.

Page last reviewed November 2013
Internet Citation: Communication and Dissemination Strategies To Facilitate the Use of Health-Related Evidence. November 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/research/findings/evidence-based-reports/commstrattp.html