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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Bruce Houghton, MD (Creighton University Medical Center)
Description: The book provides a starting point for those desiring key information about systematic reviews for healthcare. It lays a framework for health professionals interested in using (reading critically or contemplating conducting their own) systematic reviews.
Purpose: The book "...describes the main principles behind systematic reviews of healthcare research and provides guidance on how reviews can be appraised, conducted and applied in practice." These are worthy objectives, indeed, given the importance of systematic reviews in medical decision-making and healthcare policy. The authors meet their objectives with this book.
Audience: The intended audience is healthcare professionals and those involved with public health or epidemiology. The authors are experts in the field of systematic reviews and well-qualified to produce this book.
Features: This book provides an excellent framework for professionals interested in understanding systematic reviews. The introduction discusses the important role of systematic reviews in our current practice of medicine. The first section of the book follows the course (steps) one would take in developing and conducting a systematic review. The book begins with covering the basics about systematic reviews for healthcare and spends an appropriate amount of time discussing how to adequately frame a clinical question that can be answered by a systematic review. Next are discussions about identifying the relevant literature with nice tips on bibliographic search strategies. These sections are followed by others on summarizing the evidence and interpreting the findings. The second section of the book provides case studies illustrating key questions systematic reviews attempt to answer. The clinical examples given throughout the book are useful. The authors' use of diagrams and boxes are very helpful as are the definitions of important terms appearing in shaded boxes on the appropriate pages. Additional resources for reading about systematic reviews are provided. I would have appreciated a more extensive bibliographic section, but the suggested additional readings cited are excellent.
Assessment: This is an excellent addition to the literature about systematic reviews. It compares well to the book by Mulrow and Cook, Systematic Reviews: Synthesis of Best Evidence for Health Care Decisions (ACP-ASIM, 1998).