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Evidence about effective treatments and choices for treatment can change and it is important that information includes the latest developments in knowledge and practice. DISCERN cannot be used to assess how up-to-date the information is, as the rate of change will vary with each medical condition and treatment. However, a good quality publication will make the date of the information about treatment choices explicit. An indication of the age of the information is important, as it may lead you to question whether the information is current and to seek further information about the most recent developments.
The hints guide you to look not only for the date the publication itself was produced, but also for the dates of the main sources of evidence used and reported in the publication. The publication cannot be older than the sources of evidence, whereas the sources of evidence can be much older than the publication. Therefore, in order to fulfil the quality criterion for Question 5, the dates for the sources of evidence identified in Question 4 must be clear. A publication that has rated 1 on Question 4 cannot rate high on Question 5.
Hint 1: Dates of sources used
Print sources: dates for print sources will be found either with the references in the text or in the details of the references in the bibliography or reference list (see instructions for rating Question 4).
Online sources: Dates for online sources such as webpages should be checked as outlined below. The date for a source such as email from a discussion group or a newsgroup is the posting date of the original message.
Hints 2 and 3: Date of the publication
Print publications: the date of a print publication is usually found on the back page of a leaflet or on one of the title pages of a book (usually copyright date). A revised publication has been changed or updated since initial publication, and you should use the date for the revised edition to rate the question. It is possible that a publication will not have been revised and therefore Hint 3 can be fulfilled without Hint 2. A reprinted publication will not contain new information and you should use the copyright date.
Online publications: A copyright date on a webpage or website indicates the date the information was originally produced, either in print or online. As with print publications, the date of the last revision, update or amendment indicates the date of the most recent changes to a webpage and you should use this date to rate this question if it is available. You will usually find these dates on a home page or at the bottom of individual webpages.
The date for an email publication such as a discussion or newsgroup item will be the date it was posted.
Guidelines for rating the question:
5: Yes - dates for all acknowledged sources are clear.
2 - 4: Partially - only the date of the publication itself is clear, or dates for some but not all acknowledged sources have been given.
1: No - no dates have been given.
Remember: although the dates of the sources may be clear and the publication gets a high rating on this question, it is possible that the information on which the sources are based is not up-to-date. Similarly, it is unlikely that you will be able to tell which aspects of a revised publication have been changed. Question 5 will enable you to judge whether the dates are explicit, but not whether the information is current.
It is not yet common practice to include all of these dates and therefore it is very unlikely that many publications will rate highly on this question.