Reporting, updating, and correcting systematic reviews of the effects of health care.
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The recent growth in the numbers of published systematic reviews reflects growing recognition of their importance for improving knowledge about the effects of health care. In Britain the NHS R&D Programme has established two centres to prepare systematic reviews of existing information, and the Cochrane Collaboration--an international network of individuals and institutions--evolved to produce systematic, periodically updated reviews of randomised controlled trials. The large amount of existing evidence that needs to be considered creates a problem for the reporting of systematic reviews: the need to ensure that methods and results of systematic reviews are adequately described has to be reconciled with the limited space available in printed journals. A possible solution is the use of electronic publications: reviews could be published simultaneously in a short, printed form and in a more detailed electronic form. Electronic publications also have the advantage of the ease with which reviews may be updated as new evidence becomes available or mistakes are identified.
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