Objectives This study aimed to investigate whether the format and type of conclusion in Cochrane plain language summaries (PLSs) influence readers’ perception of treatment benefit and decision-making.
Design An online parallel group, three-arm randomised controlled trial was conducted.
Setting The study was conducted online.
Participants The participants were physiotherapy students.
Interventions The participants read two Cochrane PLSs, one with a positive conclusion (strong evidence of benefit) and another with a negative conclusion (strong evidence of non-benefit). Each participant read the results of both reviews presented in one of three formats: (1) numerical, (2) textual or (3) numerical and textual.
Main outcome measures The primary outcome measure was the participants’ perception of treatment benefit.
Results All three groups of participants perceived the treatment to have positive effects when the Cochrane PLS had a positive conclusion, regardless of the format of presentation (mean perception of treatment benefit score: textual 7.7 (SD 2.3), numerical 7.9 (SD 1.8), numerical and textual 7.7 (SD 1.7), p=0.362). However, when the Cochrane PLS had a negative conclusion, all three groups of participants failed to perceive a negative effect (mean perception of treatment benefit score: textual 5.5 (SD 3.3), numerical 5.6 (SD 2.7), numerical and textual 5.9 (SD 2.8), p=0.019).
Conclusions The format of Cochrane PLSs does not appear to significantly impact physiotherapy students’ perception of treatment benefit, understanding of evidence, persuasiveness or confidence in their decision. However, participants’ perception of treatment benefit does not align with the conclusion when the Cochrane PLS indicates strong evidence of non-benefit from the intervention.
Trial registration number CTRI/2022/10/046476.
- Evidence-Based Practice
- Quality of Health Care
- PUBLIC HEALTH
Data availability statement
Data are available on reasonable request.
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Contributors Concept/idea/research design: VP, KG, GS, PT and ST. Writing: VP, KG, GS, PT and ST. Data collection: KG, GS, PT and ST. Data analysis and interpretation: VP, KG, GS, PT and ST. Project management: VP. Providing facilities/equipment: VP. Providing institutional liaisons: VP consultation (including review of manuscript before submitting): VP, KG, GS, PT and ST. VP is the guarantor and attests that all authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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