Background: Consumers often have problems understanding the standard presentation of research findings. Cochrane is engaged in developing infographics to complement plain-language summaries (PLS) and scientific abstracts of systematic reviews.
Objectives: To test the effectiveness of infographics in the understanding of health information to lay and professional populations in comparison to PLS and scientific abstracts.
Methods: We conducted three randomised trials, with university students, consumers and physicians, to examine the effect of different summary formats of a Cochrane systematic review summary on understanding of health information, reading experience and perceived user-friendliness. In the trials involving students and physicians, we compared infographics with PLS and scientific abstracts.
Results: In the student sample, the group that read the scientific summary had the lowest scores on all measures, with no difference between PLS and infographics groups (Table 1). Similarly, no difference was found in comprehension test scores between PLS and infographics in the consumer sample, although infographic was superior to PLS in terms of reading experience and user-friendliness (Table 1). In the physicians’ sample, no difference in understanding was found between the three formats (Table 1). Physicians had better understanding than the other two groups for PLS and scientific abstract, and rated reading experience and user-friendliness of scientific abstracts higher than students (Table 1).
Conclusions: Although the infographic format was perceived as more enjoyable for reading and more user-friendly, we found no evidence that it was better in information transfer than traditional PLS for non-professional populations. Health professionals were able to understand all summary formats equally