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Cover of Communication and Dissemination Strategies to Facilitate the Use of Health-Related Evidence

Communication and Dissemination Strategies to Facilitate the Use of Health-Related Evidence

Evidence Reports/Technology Assessments, No. 213

Investigators: , PhD, MSPH, , MD, MPH, , PhD, , PhD, , DrPH, , MD, MASc, , MPA, , BA, and , PhD, MPhil, MA.

Author Information and Affiliations
Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); .
Report No.: 13(14)-E003-EF

Structured Abstract


This review examined how to best communicate and disseminate evidence, including uncertain evidence, to inform health care decisions. The review focused on three primary objectives—comparing the effectiveness of: (1) communicating evidence in various contents and formats that increase the likelihood that target audiences will both understand and use the information (KQ 1); (2) a variety of approaches for disseminating evidence from those who develop it to those who are expected to use it (KQ 2); and (3) various ways of communicating uncertainty-associated health-related evidence to different target audiences (KQ 3). A secondary objective was to examine how the effectiveness of communication and dissemination strategies varies across target audiences, including evidence translators, health educators, patients, and clinicians.

Data sources:

We searched MEDLINE®, the Cochrane Library, Cochrane Central Trials Registry, PsycINFO®, and the Web of Science. We used a variety of medical subject headings (MeSH terms) and major headings, and used free-text and title and abstract text-word searches. The search was limited to studies on humans published from 2000 to March 15, 2013, for communication and dissemination, given the prior systematic reviews, and from 1966 to March 15, 2013, for communicating uncertainty.

Review methods:

We used standard Evidence-based Practice Center methods of dual review of abstracts, full-text articles, and abstractions, and quality ratings and group consensus to resolve disagreements. We used group consensus to grade strength of evidence.


The search identified 4,152 articles (after removing duplicates) for all three KQs. After dual review at the title/abstract stage and full-text review stage, we retained 61 articles that directly (i.e., head to head) compared strategies to communicate and disseminate evidence. Across the KQs, many of the comparisons yielded insufficient evidence to draw firm conclusions. For KQ 1, we found that investigators frequently blend more than one communication strategy in interventions. For KQ 2, we found that, compared with single dissemination strategies, multicomponent dissemination strategies are more effective at enhancing clinician behavior, particularly for guideline adherence. Key findings for KQ 3 indicate that evidence on communicating overall strength of recommendation and precision was insufficient, but certain ways of communicating directness and net benefit may be helpful in reducing uncertainty.


The lack of comparative research evidence to inform communication and dissemination of evidence, including uncertain evidence, impedes timely clinician, patient, and policymaker awareness, uptake, and use of evidence to improve the quality of care. Expanding investment in communication, dissemination, and implementation research is critical to the identification of strategies to accelerate the translation of comparative effectiveness research into community and clinical practice and the direct benefit of patient care.


Prepared for: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services1, Contract No. 290-2007-10056-I, Prepared by: RTI International–University of North Carolina Evidence-based Practice Center, Research Triangle Park, NC

Suggested citation:

McCormack L, Sheridan S, Lewis M, Boudewyns V, Melvin CL, Kistler C, Lux LJ, Cullen K, Lohr KN. Communication and Dissemination Strategies To Facilitate the Use of Health-Related Evidence. Evidence Report/Technology Assessment No. 213. (Prepared by the RTI International–University of North Carolina Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2007-10056-I.) AHRQ Publication No. 13(14)-E003-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; November 2013. www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/reports/final.cfm. DOI: https://doi.org/10.23970/AHRQEPCERTA213.

This report is based on research conducted by the RTI International–University of North Carolina Evidence-based Practice Center (EPC) under contract to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Rockville, MD (Contract No. 290-2007-10056-I). The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the authors, who are responsible for its contents; the findings and conclusions do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. Therefore, no statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The information in this report is intended to help health care decisionmakers—patients and clinicians, health system leaders, and policymakers, among others—make well-informed decisions and thereby improve the quality of health care services. This report is not intended to be a substitute for the application of clinical judgment. Anyone who makes decisions concerning the provision of clinical care should consider this report in the same way as any medical reference and in conjunction with all other pertinent information, i.e., in the context of available resources and circumstances presented by individual patients.

This report may be used, in whole or in part, as the basis for development of clinical practice guidelines and other quality enhancement tools, or as a basis for reimbursement and coverage policies. AHRQ or U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorsement of such derivative products may not be stated or implied.

This report may periodically be assessed for the urgency to update. If an assessment is done, the resulting surveillance report describing the methodology and findings will be found on the Effective Health Care Program Web site at: www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov. Search on the title of the report.

None of the investigators have any affiliations or financial involvement that conflicts with the material presented in this report.


540 Gaither Road, Rockville, MD 20850; www​.ahrq.gov

Bookshelf ID: NBK179104


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