La Trobe

File(s) stored somewhere else

Please note: Linked content is NOT stored on La Trobe and we can't guarantee its availability, quality, security or accept any liability.

Supporting implementation of Cochrane methods in complex communication reviews: resources developed and lessons learned for editorial practice and policy

Version 3 2023-11-09, 01:16
Version 2 2023-08-30, 05:59
Version 1 2019-05-03, 00:30
journal contribution
posted on 2023-11-09, 01:16 authored by Cochrane Consumers and Communication La Trobe UniversityCochrane Consumers and Communication La Trobe University, Rebecca RyanRebecca Ryan, Sophie HillSophie Hill
Every healthcare encounter involves some form of communication and there is growing recognition that effective health communication is central to the delivery of safe, high-quality healthcare. Conversely, poor communication has a range of adverse consequences for those receiving healthcare and the systems delivering care, including elevated patient safety risks. Increasing understanding and documentation of the key role that good communication plays in healthcare design and delivery has meant there is growing demand from policy-makers and other decision-makers for evidence on the effects of health communication interventions – that is, how best to communicate. While systematic reviews of such interventions are fundamental to building this evidence base, such interventions and reviews are often highly complex and pose considerable challenges for authors and editors. In this paper, we describe our experience as a Cochrane editorial group identifying common issues in reviews of communication interventions and developing resources to support authors to better meet these challenges. Our analysis found that issues typically fell into one or more of the following three stages of the review process: understanding and applying systematic review methods (e.g. selecting outcomes for analysis); reporting the review’s methods (e.g. describing key decisions made in conducting the review); and interpreting the findings (e.g. incorporating quality of the evidence into findings of the review). We also found that common issues reflected both practical difficulties (such as the typically large size of reviews and disparate measures for outcomes) and conceptual challenges (for instance, the difficulties of identifying comparisons). While extensive advice for Cochrane systematic reviewers exists, this standardised advice does not cover all of the issues emerging for complex communication reviews. In response, we therefore developed a collection of resources, both general and targeted to specific methodological issues. Here, we describe the types of resources developed and the aims of these, the rationale for why we needed to fill specific gaps in existing advice, and reflect on the lessons for future editorial practice, policies and research in relation to the implementation of Cochrane review methods in the area of health communication.


RR’s position is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council Cochrane Collaboration Funding Program (2017–2020). During some of the period described in this manuscript, part of SH’s position was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council Cochrane Collaboration Funding Program (2017–2020), and the Funding and Service Agreement, Department of Health and Human Services Victoria (2016/17–2018/19). Funding bodies had no input to the planning or writing of this manuscript


Publication Date



Health Research Policy and Systems





Article Number





Springer Nature



Rights Statement

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Usage metrics

    Journal Articles



    Ref. manager