The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Effective Healthcare (EHC) Program funds individual researchers, research centers, and academic organizations to work with AHRQ to produce effectiveness and comparative effectiveness research for clinicians and consumers.1 Comparative effectiveness research (CER) compares the benefits, harms, and effectiveness of health interventions for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management of clinical conditions and the improvement of health care delivery. The purpose of CER is to assist patients and consumers, clinicians and other providers, and purchasers and payers to make informed decisions that will improve health care at both the individual and population levels.1
One EHC goal is to make CER accessible to these decisionmakers. The Institute of Medicine’s list of 100 priority topics for CER highlights the importance of translating and disseminating this research.2 The specific topic (“compare the effectiveness of dissemination and translation techniques to facilitate the use of CER by patients, clinicians, payers, and others”) was listed among the first quartile of topics recommended for initial focus. Many hope that better communication and dissemination of CER will result in more widespread use of such information.
Coupled with these mandates is the fact that the ad hoc Uncertainty Committee of the EHC Stakeholder Group is interested in promoting effective ways to communicate uncertainty about health and health care evidence to end-users. The committee would like to know what approaches to conveying uncertainty increase the likelihood that audiences receiving such information will understand it and be able to factor it into their decisionmaking.
This systematic review has three related components; all focus on promoting informed health and health care decisions among patients and providers. First, it addresses the comparative effectiveness of communicating the evidence in various contents and formats that increases the likelihood that it will be understood and used by the target audience. Second, it examines the comparative effectiveness of a variety of approaches for disseminating the evidence from those who develop it to its potential users. Third, it examines the comparative effectiveness of various ways of communicating uncertainty associated with health and health care evidence to different target audiences.