The most obvious use for systematic reviews in biomedicine is in clinical practice. Because the information from systematic reviews is more trustworthy than that from single studies and non-systematic reviews, health care professionals and health care policy-makers use systematic reviews as a guide in safe and cost-effective decision-making to improve the quality of life of individuals and communities.
Health care workers who routinely use evidence from systematic reviews include physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, paramedics, sports scientists, nutritionists, therapists, and technologists.
Before systematic reviews can be integrated into practice, they are often translated into clinical practice guidelines for real-world use. Recommendations may vary by age, sex, health status, or ethnicity/genetics. Additional details or real-world evidence may be needed, such as data on efficacy and cost-effectiveness under uncontrolled conditions. Clinical practice guidelines may be targeted at local, regional, national, or international levels, and should be tested, refined, adopted, reviewed, and revised.
The World Health Organization (WHO) formulates and disseminates clinical practice guidelines in many medical and public health areas after considering the evidence, including existing systematic reviews in the literature. If a systematic review is not available or is not recent, a new one is commissioned.
Systematic reviews of the best medical or therapeutic evidence can also be used for decision-making in areas that are not directly related to clinical practice, such as laws related to medical matters and public programs on health education.
Regulating and managing the health care market involves decisions on the safety and cost-effectiveness of treatments. Evidence from systematic reviews can affect regulatory approval of drugs and assessments of treatment impact and economics, which affect pricing, budgeting, and coverage of health care delivery and insurance plans.
Some researchers use systematic reviews to identify research and information gaps. They set the future research agenda to meet unmet needs.
Patients and consumers consult the published literature for evidence on the efficacy and effectiveness of regimens and new treatments.