Background The Cochrane Consumer Network is an internet-based community of international users of health care contributing to the work of The Cochrane Collaboration, whose mission is to inform healthcare decision making through development of systematic reviews of best evidence on healthcare interventions.
Objective To prioritize existing review titles listed on The Cochrane Library from a healthcare user perspective, with particular emphasis on patients, carers and health consumers.
Design An online survey was developed and after piloting was made available internationally. The broad dissemination strategy targeted Consumer Network members and Cochrane Review Group editorial staff to identify champions who notified patient support groups and participated in snowballing. The first part of the survey defined criteria that could be applied to review titles and asked survey respondents to rank them. The second part asked respondents to select a health area and prioritize review titles that were of importance to them. Each health area corresponded to a Cochrane Review Group.
Results and discussion Sufficient responses were obtained from 522 valid responses to prioritize review topics in 19 health areas. A total of 321 respondents completed the titles assessment. The types of prioritized interventions were determined by the health area. An important observation was the emphasis on lifestyle and non-medication therapies in many of the included health areas. The clearest exception to this broad observation was where acute care is required such as antibiotics for acute respiratory tract and HIV-associated infections and for cardiac conditions. For some cancers, advanced cancer interventions were prioritized. The most important criteria were for the title to convey a clear meaning and the title conveyed that the review would have an impact on health and well-being. The least important criteria were that the topic was newsworthy or prioritized in the healthcare system.
Conclusion This project was able to identify priority Cochrane review topics for users of health care in 19 of the 50 areas of health care covered by The Cochrane Collaboration. Reviews addressing lifestyle and non-medical interventions were strongly represented in the prioritized review titles. These findings highlight the importance of developing readable, informative lay summaries to support evidence-based decision making by healthcare users.