Getting health information out of the journals and into the world

Austin, Don Taylor, and I had the opportunity to participate in a great workshop held by AcademyHealth on “Improving the Translation and Dissemination of Health Services Research.” The question at the workshop was how to get the information gathered by health services researchers to decision makers and to readers like yourselves.

Here’s something I learned about at the conference that may be useful to you. The McMaster University Health Forum has developed a great online database of systematic reviews of research on health systems. Think Cochrane Reviews, but for health care organization and delivery, rather than clinical care.

And here’s a thought. Systematic reviews are amazingly useful for researchers and clinicians. And there’s lots of evidence in there about what works and what doesn’t. Moreover, it’s all done by volunteers committed to improving the quality of medical care. Unfortunately, for anyone without medical or research training, reading a systematic review of medical evidence is a literary experience that is roughly as pleasant as reading the Tax Code.

How can we open these resources so that others can read them? I’m impressed with some of the early work on the Vox explainers (and see this remarkable visualization by Matthew Klein of US historical data on mortality). If there is a foundation, somewhere, looking for a way to improve the translation and dissemination of health services research, consider bringing some talented data journalists and programmers together with the evidence-based medicine community to build more accessible interfaces to the knowledge in Cochrane or the McMaster Health Forum. Could we get a glossary of key terms? Interactive visualizations to understand the evidence in multiple studies? I know, there’s also the challenge of sustaining the effort as medical knowledge grows.

And maybe we can get Aaron to do a few hundred more Health Care Triages?


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