Sizing Up Systematic Reviews: Not All Syntheses Are Created Equal

Headshot of Jennifer Croswell, MD, MPH
Jennifer Croswell, M.D., M.P.H

Senior Program Officer
Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)

 

Resources

About the Webinar

Systematic evidence reviews have become known as the “gold standard” for health care decision-makers in search of the most reliable and comprehensive information about a given clinical or public health topic. By taking a rigorous and transparent approach to identifying, assessing, and synthesizing a group of eligible studies on a specific clinical question, the reviews can make clear what is known and what the important remaining evidence gaps still to be answered are. As such, systematic reviews have become a cornerstone of trustworthy clinical practice guidelines.

The number of such reviews has increased exponentially in recent years, sometimes even exceeding the number of available trials in a given clinical topic area. With all of this activity, it is perhaps not surprising that sometimes even systematic reviews come to different conclusions on the same subject. So how do you know what to conclude? Which is “right”?

Using case examples as a guide, this talk demonstrates methods to critically assess the quality of published systematic reviews of clinical or public health interventions.

About Jennifer Croswell

Dr. Croswell is a Senior Program Officer at the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). She provides oversight for a legislatively-mandated evidence synthesis program, which aims to increase the quantity and quality of available comparative effectiveness research while supporting novel data analytic techniques to address key research gaps.

Before joining PCORI, Dr. Croswell was a Medical Officer at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). There, she provided scientific and technical support for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent group of experts in evidence-based medicine and prevention who make recommendations for primary care clinicians. She also served as the Acting Director of the NIH’s Office of Medical Applications of Research, home to the former NIH Consensus Development Program, which produced evidence-based assessments of controversial medical issues and developed roadmaps of critical evidence gaps.

Dr. Croswell received a B.A. in English from the University of Chicago, an M.A. in theatre from The Ohio State University, and worked at two Chicago theatre companies before her interests turned to medicine. She received her M.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and an M.P.H. with a concentration in epidemiology and biostatistics from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.