Evidence: A systematic approach

Systematic reviews are a crucial component of evidence-based medicine. They are pro­ducts of the synthesis and appraisal of all high-quality research evidence relevant to focused questions and express both current knowledge and uncertainty. Over time, systematic reviews have increasingly informed recommen­dations of clinical guidelines, point-of-care tools, and other summaries on medical practice. 

The Cochrane Collaboration is one of the most prominent organizations producing systematic reviews, and it does so on a nonprofit, independent basis. More than 5000 systematic reviews have been produced by the Collaboration, and these are available in full text at no cost to all health professionals in BC through the licensing efforts of the library consortium Electronic Health Library of BC (EHLBC). The College of Physicians and Surgeons is a member of EHLBC and thus makes the Cochrane Database of Systematic Re­views available to all registrants (see the College’s website at www.cpsbc.ca/library/search-medline-etc). 

Another significant source of systematic reviews also available to College registrants is Clinical Evidence from the BMJ Publishing Group (see the web link above). The challenges of the rapid growth of clinical trial literature and the requirement for time, expertise, and resources has resulted in only a minority of research trials being systematically reviewed.[1] Even so, 11 Cochrane reviews on hy­pertension were published in the last year ranging from the blood pressure–lowering effects of chocolate to the relative effectiveness of evening versus morning dosing of antihypertensive agents. 

In addition to downloading these reviews from the College website, any registrant who requires a copy of a Cochrane or Clinical Evidence review or, in fact, any article may request a copy from the College Library at 604 733-6671 or medlib@mls.cpsbc.ca.
—Karen MacDonell
—Robert Melrose
—Judy Neill

This article is the opinion of the Library of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC and has not been peer reviewed by the BCMJ Editorial Board.


1.    Bastian H, Glasziou P, Chalmers I. Seventy-five trials and eleven systematic reviews a day: How will we ever keep up? PLoS Med. 2010 Sep;7:e1000326.

Karen MacDonell, PhD, MLIS, Robert Melrose, Judy Neill. Evidence: A systematic approach. BCMJ, Vol. 54, No. 8, October, 2012, Page(s) 413 - College Library.

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