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1.  Using GEM-encoded guidelines to generate medical logic modules. 
Among the most effective strategies for changing the process and outcomes of clinical care are those that make use of computer-mediated decision support. A variety of representation models that facilitate computer-based implementation of medical knowledge have been published, including the Guideline Elements Model (GEM) and the Arden Syntax for Medical Logic Modules (MLMs). We describe an XML-based application that facilitates automated generation of partially populated MLMs from GEM-encoded guidelines. These MLMs can be further edited and shared among Arden-compliant information systems to provide decision support. Our work required three steps: (a) Knowledge extraction from published guideline documents using GEM, (b) Mapping GEM elements to the MLM slots, and (c) XSL transformation of the GEM-encoded guideline. Processing of a sample guideline generated 15 MLMs, each corresponding to a conditional or imperative element in the GEM structure. Mechanisms for linking various MLMs are necessary to represent the complexity of logic typical of a guideline.
PMCID: PMC2243667  PMID: 11825147
2.  Embedding the Guideline Elements Model in Web Ontology Language 
The Guideline Elements Model (GEM) uses XML to represent the heterogeneous knowledge contained in clinical practice guidelines. GEM has important applications in computer aided guideline authoring and clinical decision support systems. However, its XML representation format could limit its potential impact, as semantic web ontology languages, such as OWL, are becoming major knowledge representation frameworks in medical informatics. In this work, we present a faithful translation of GEM from XML into OWL. This translation is intended to keep the knowledge model of GEM intact, as this knowledge model has been carefully designed and has become a recognized standard. An OWL representation would make GEM more applicable in medical informatics systems that rely on semantic web. This work will also be the initial step in making GEM a guideline recommendation ontology.
PMCID: PMC2815420  PMID: 20351934
3.  A preliminary evaluation of guideline content mark-up using GEM--an XML guideline elements model. 
OBJECTIVE: To describe application of GEM to analysis and categorization of guideline content. METHOD: We examined the application of GEM constructs to the AAP guideline on neurodiagnostic evaluation of febrile seizures. Subjects at 4 sites marked-up the guideline content using a hierarchical template that includes branches for identity, developer, purpose, intended audience, method of development, knowledge components, testing, and review. The types of elements used were tabulated. Subjects were surveyed regarding the usability of the model. RESULTS: Eight subjects analyzed the guideline, using between 46 and 149 elements to model its content. There was considerable variation in the application of elements. The number of elements used correlated with time to complete the task. Subjects found application of GEM to be straightforward in 6 of 8 categories and sufficiently comprehensive to model the guideline's information content. CONCLUSIONS: Subjects found GEM constructs were able to model the content of the guideline. Improved editing tools will facilitate translation.
PMCID: PMC2243751  PMID: 11079916
4.  Bridging the Guideline Implementation Gap: A Systematic, Document-Centered Approach to Guideline Implementation 
Objective: A gap exists between the information contained in published clinical practice guidelines and the knowledge and information that are necessary to implement them. This work describes a process to systematize and make explicit the translation of document-based knowledge into workflow-integrated clinical decision support systems.
Design: This approach uses the Guideline Elements Model (GEM) to represent the guideline knowledge. Implementation requires a number of steps to translate the knowledge contained in guideline text into a computable format and to integrate the information into clinical workflow. The steps include: (1) selection of a guideline and specific recommendations for implementation, (2) markup of the guideline text, (3) atomization, (4) deabstraction and (5) disambiguation of recommendation concepts, (6) verification of rule set completeness, (7) addition of explanations, (8) building executable statements, (9) specification of origins of decision variables and insertions of recommended actions, (10) definition of action types and selection of associated beneficial services, (11) choice of interface components, and (12) creation of requirement specification.
Results: The authors illustrate these component processes using examples drawn from recent experience translating recommendations from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's guideline on management of chronic asthma into a workflow-integrated decision support system that operates within the Logician electronic health record system.
Conclusion: Using the guideline document as a knowledge source promotes authentic translation of domain knowledge and reduces the overall complexity of the implementation task. From this framework, we believe that a better understanding of activities involved in guideline implementation will emerge.
doi:10.1197/jamia.M1444
PMCID: PMC516249  PMID: 15187061
5.  GEM at 10: A Decade’s Experience with the Guideline Elements Model 
The Guideline Elements Model (GEM) was developed in 2000 to organize the information contained in clinical practice guidelines using XML and to represent guideline content in a form that can be understood by human readers and processed by computers. In this work, we systematically reviewed the literature to better understand how GEM was being used, potential barriers to its use, and suggestions for improvement. Fifty external and twelve internally produced publications were identified and analyzed. GEM was used most commonly for modeling and ontology creation. Other investigators applied GEM for knowledge extraction and data mining, for clinical decision support for guideline generation. The GEM Cutter software—used to markup guidelines for translation into XML— has been downloaded 563 times since 2000. Although many investigators found GEM to be valuable, others critiqued its failure to clarify guideline semantics, difficulties in markup, and the fact that GEM files are not usually executable.
PMCID: PMC3243287  PMID: 22195106
6.  Inclusion of Ethical Issues in Dementia Guidelines: A Thematic Text Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(8):e1001498.
Background
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) aim to improve professionalism in health care. However, current CPG development manuals fail to address how to include ethical issues in a systematic and transparent manner. The objective of this study was to assess the representation of ethical issues in general CPGs on dementia care.
Methods and Findings
To identify national CPGs on dementia care, five databases of guidelines were searched and national psychiatric associations were contacted in August 2011 and in June 2013. A framework for the assessment of the identified CPGs' ethical content was developed on the basis of a prior systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Thematic text analysis and a 4-point rating score were employed to assess how ethical issues were addressed in the identified CPGs. Twelve national CPGs were included. Thirty-one ethical issues in dementia care were identified by the prior systematic review. The proportion of these 31 ethical issues that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% to 77%, with a median of 49.5%. National guidelines differed substantially with respect to (a) which ethical issues were represented, (b) whether ethical recommendations were included, (c) whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and (d) to what extent the ethical issues were explained.
Conclusions
Ethical issues were inconsistently addressed in national dementia guidelines, with some guidelines including most and some including few ethical issues. Guidelines should address ethical issues and how to deal with them to help the medical profession understand how to approach care of patients with dementia, and for patients, their relatives, and the general public, all of whom might seek information and advice in national guidelines. There is a need for further research to specify how detailed ethical issues and their respective recommendations can and should be addressed in dementia guidelines.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors’ Summary
Background
In the past, doctors tended to rely on their own experience to choose the best treatment for their patients. Faced with a patient with dementia (a brain disorder that affects short-term memory and the ability tocarry out normal daily activities), for example, a doctor would use his/her own experience to help decide whether the patient should remain at home or would be better cared for in a nursing home. Similarly, the doctor might have to decide whether antipsychotic drugs might be necessary to reduce behavioral or psychological symptoms such as restlessness or shouting. However, over the past two decades, numerous evidence-based clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have been produced by governmental bodies and medical associations that aim to improve standards of clinical competence and professionalism in health care. During the development of each guideline, experts search the medical literature for the current evidence about the diagnosis and treatment of a disease, evaluate the quality of that evidence, and then make recommendations based on the best evidence available.
Why Was This Study Done?
Currently, CPG development manuals do not address how to include ethical issues in CPGs. A health-care professional is ethical if he/she behaves in accordance with the accepted principles of right and wrong that govern the medical profession. More specifically, medical professionalism is based on a set of binding ethical principles—respect for patient autonomy, beneficence, non-malfeasance (the “do no harm” principle), and justice. In particular, CPG development manuals do not address disease-specific ethical issues (DSEIs), clinical ethical situations that are relevant to the management of a specific disease. So, for example, a DSEI that arises in dementia care is the conflict between the ethical principles of non-malfeasance and patient autonomy (freedom-to-move-at-will). Thus, healthcare professionals may have to decide to physically restrain a patient with dementia to prevent the patient doing harm to him- or herself or to someone else. Given the lack of guidance on how to address ethical issues in CPG development manuals, in this thematic text analysis, the researchers assess the representation of ethical issues in CPGs on general dementia care. Thematic text analysis uses a framework for the assessment of qualitative data (information that is word-based rather than number-based) that involves pinpointing, examining, and recording patterns (themes) among the available data.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 12 national CPGs on dementia care by searching guideline databases and by contacting national psychiatric associations. They developed a framework for the assessment of the ethical content in these CPGs based on a previous systematic review of ethical issues in dementia care. Of the 31 DSEIs included by the researchers in their analysis, the proportion that were explicitly addressed by each CPG ranged from 22% (Switzerland) to 77% (USA); on average the CPGs explicitly addressed half of the DSEIs. Four DSEIs—adequate consideration of advanced directives in decision making, usage of GPS and other monitoring techniques, covert medication, and dealing with suicidal thinking—were not addressed in at least 11 of the CPGs. The inclusion of recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs ranged from 10% of DSEIs covered in the Swiss CPG to 71% covered in the US CPG. Overall, national guidelines differed substantially with respect to which ethical issues were included, whether ethical recommendations were included, whether justifications or citations were provided to support recommendations, and to what extent the ethical issues were clearly explained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that national CPGs on dementia care already address clinical ethical issues but that the extent to which the spectrum of DSEIs is considered varies widely within and between CPGs. They also indicate that recommendations on how to deal with DSEIs often lack the evidence that health-care professionals use to justify their clinical decisions. The researchers suggest that this situation can and should be improved, although more research is needed to determine how ethical issues and recommendations should be addressed in dementia guidelines. A more systematic and transparent inclusion of DSEIs in CPGs for dementia (and for other conditions) would further support the concept of medical professionalism as a core element of CPGs, note the researchers, but is also important for patients and their relatives who might turn to national CPGs for information and guidance at a stressful time of life.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001498.
Wikipedia contains a page on clinical practice guidelines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
The US National Guideline Clearinghouse provides information on national guidelines, including CPGs for dementia
The Guidelines International Network promotes the systematic development and application of clinical practice guidelines
The American Medical Association provides information about medical ethics; the British Medical Association provides information on all aspects of ethics and includes an essential tool kit that introduces common ethical problems and practical ways to deal with them
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides information about dementia, including a personal story about dealing with dementia
MedlinePlus provides links to additional resources about dementia and about Alzheimers disease, a specific type of dementia (in English and Spanish)
The UK Nuffield Council on Bioethics provides the report Dementia: ethical issues and additional information on the public consultation on ethical issues in dementia care
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001498
PMCID: PMC3742442  PMID: 23966839
7.  Modification of GEM to Accommodate Changes in a Classification Scheme 
Through this collaboration, we were able to integrate a proposed expansion of the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) guideline classification into the XML based Guideline Elements Model (GEM).1 2 We conclude that GEM, through its utilization of XML is flexible enough to accommodate externally developed concepts. We hope to use this result to expand upon a preliminary evaluation of the guideline classification using GEM tools.
PMCID: PMC2243695
8.  An implementation framework for GEM encoded guidelines. 
Access to timely decision support information is critical for delivery of high-quality medical care. Transformation of clinical knowledge that is originally expressed in the form of a guideline to a computable format is one of the main obstacles to the integration of knowledge sharing functionality into computerized clinical systems. The Guideline Element Model (GEM) provides a methodology for such a transformation. Although the model has been used to store heterogeneous guideline knowledge, it is important to demonstrate that GEM markup facilitates guideline implementation. This report demonstrates the feasibility of implementation of GEM-encoded guideline recommendations using Apache Group s Cocoon Web Publishing Framework. We further demonstrate how XML-based programming allows for maintaining the separation of guideline content from processing logic and from presentation format. Finally, we analyze whether the guideline authors original intent has been sufficiently captured and conveyed to the end user.
PMCID: PMC2243348  PMID: 11825181
9.  Improving the use of research evidence in guideline development: 1. Guidelines for guidelines 
Background
The World Health Organization (WHO), like many other organisations around the world, has recognised the need to use more rigorous processes to ensure that health care recommendations are informed by the best available research evidence. This is the first of a series of 16 reviews that have been prepared as background for advice from the WHO Advisory Committee on Health Research to WHO on how to achieve this.
Objectives
We reviewed the literature on guidelines for the development of guidelines.
Methods
We searched PubMed and three databases of methodological studies for existing systematic reviews and relevant methodological research. We did not conduct systematic reviews ourselves. Our conclusions are based on the available evidence, consideration of what WHO and other organisations are doing and logical arguments.
Key questions and answers
We found no experimental research that compared different formats of guidelines for guidelines or studies that compared different components of guidelines for guidelines. However, there are many examples, surveys and other observational studies that compared the impact of different guideline development documents on guideline quality.
What have other organizations done to develop guidelines for guidelines from which WHO can learn?
• Establish a credible, independent committee that evaluates existing methods for developing guidelines or that updates existing ones.
• Obtain feedback and approval from various stakeholders during the development process of guidelines for guidelines.
• Develop a detailed source document (manual) that guideline developers can use as reference material.
What should be the key components of WHO guidelines for guidelines?
• Guidelines for guidelines should include information and instructions about the following components: 1) Priority setting; 2) Group composition and consultations; 3) Declaration and avoidance of conflicts of interest; 4) Group processes; 5) Identification of important outcomes; 6) Explicit definition of the questions and eligibility criteria ; 7) Type of study designs for different questions; 8) Identification of evidence; 9) Synthesis and presentation of evidence; 10) Specification and integration of values; 11) Making judgments about desirable and undesirable effects; 12) Taking account of equity; 13) Grading evidence and recommendations; 14) Taking account of costs; 15) Adaptation, applicability, transferability of guidelines; 16) Structure of reports; 17) Methods of peer review; 18) Planned methods of dissemination & implementation; 19) Evaluation of the guidelines.
What have other organizations done to implement guidelines for guidelines from which WHO can learn?
• Obtain buy-in from regions and country level representatives for guidelines for guidelines before dissemination of a revised version.
• Disseminate the guidelines for guidelines widely and make them available (e.g. on the Internet).
• Develop examples of guidelines that guideline developers can use as models when applying the guidelines for guidelines.
• Ensure training sessions for those responsible for developing guidelines.
• Continue to monitor the methodological literature on guideline development.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-4-13
PMCID: PMC1665445  PMID: 17118181
10.  Hypertension guidelines and their effects on the health system 
Introduction
Hypertension guidelines, which have existed for many years and primarily used in the USA, Canada and Great Britain, are now becoming an issue in Germany. Strong efforts are presently underway for a German version comparable to the guidelines developed for the mentioned countries. The development of guidelines is a part of the implementation system of guidelines in Germany. It covers the mode of operation of the AWMF (work community of the scientific medical subject companies) with the clearinghouse for guidelines (CLA) and the cooperation with the centre for medical quality (ÄZQ).
In the HTA report the real use of the hypertension guidelines shall be investigated for Germany from the development trends and further possibilities of use according to a medical applicability. Economic issues and an optimisation of use are also discussed.
Question
The following questions shall be answered in particular:
How much are the guidelines used concerning hypertension? Can effects (or their influence) be established on the medical procedures? Are there statements available about costs and cost effectiveness? Are there recommendations for further use?
Methodology
To answer these questions, a comprehensive literature search was done. No empirical investigation was carried out. From this enquiry 206 articles were checked in detail but not all of them were available in full text.
Only those publications which directly dealt with high blood pressure guidelines or articles with a direct reference to the topic have been considered in the HTA report.
Publications concerning screening or methods of prevention, medical studies of the hypertension syndrome without a direct reference to guidelines and publications concerned with putting guidelines into action were excluded.
Results
After an analysis of the selected literature addressing the topic of hypertension guidelines, it was evident that the use of these guidelines cannot be gathered from existing literature at the present time. One can assume from international studies with analogical reasoning that these are confessed and have a high level of acceptance in the medical community. Unfortunately the actual usage is not represented satisfactorily in the scientific literature.
The effects of the guidelines on the medical procedures seem to be very strongly individual and the analyses to the compliance show at least an observable effect within the last few years. No publications could be found for the cost effectiveness of the guidelines.
The actual compliance with guidelines seems to be in relation with the duration of the professional practice. It seems the shorter the professional practice takes place, the stronger the guidelines are adhered.
Discussion
At present, there are only a few notes for the German health service regarding the actual effect of the hypertonus guidelines. However, the reason is not that the effect would not be possibly strong but at the methodical challenge to evaluate the sustaining effects of the application of the hypertonus guidelines. For this reason the literature is very rare regarding this topic.
For Germany it can be derived by analogical reasoning from foreign studies that guidelines will facilitate a more and more essential contribution to the design of the health system. Considering that primarily younger physicians accepted guidelines mode, the further construction, update and implementation of guidelines are essential, particularly with regard to the quality assurance. Straight guidelines can express a standard of the quality of a health system as a benchmark. The existence of guidelines or the lack thereof is considered also as a quality indicator of a health system at the organisation for economic cooperation and development (OECD).
Conclusion
Guidelines should be evaluated - especially the hypertonus guideline. Also further development and implementation should be emphasised. Methodically oriented work to the approach is pretty recent.
It is undeniable that guidelines represent a very essential and important contribution for the successful dealing with significant morbidity problems in a health system.
The fact that primarily younger doctors more frequently adopt, employ and adhere to guidelines leads to the assumption that expected sustainability for practical use will increase. Furthermore intensified use of guidelines can be considered in the "mainstream" of the development of the public health system also in an international perspective.
Not one single publication contradicts that a further acquirement, update and distribution of guidelines for the use of practices is necessary. The importance of the guideline is also not questioned in any article.
PMCID: PMC3011314  PMID: 21289932
11.  Threats to Validity in the Design and Conduct of Preclinical Efficacy Studies: A Systematic Review of Guidelines for In Vivo Animal Experiments 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001489.
Background
The vast majority of medical interventions introduced into clinical development prove unsafe or ineffective. One prominent explanation for the dismal success rate is flawed preclinical research. We conducted a systematic review of preclinical research guidelines and organized recommendations according to the type of validity threat (internal, construct, or external) or programmatic research activity they primarily address.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE, Google Scholar, Google, and the EQUATOR Network website for all preclinical guideline documents published up to April 9, 2013 that addressed the design and conduct of in vivo animal experiments aimed at supporting clinical translation. To be eligible, documents had to provide guidance on the design or execution of preclinical animal experiments and represent the aggregated consensus of four or more investigators. Data from included guidelines were independently extracted by two individuals for discrete recommendations on the design and implementation of preclinical efficacy studies. These recommendations were then organized according to the type of validity threat they addressed. A total of 2,029 citations were identified through our search strategy. From these, we identified 26 guidelines that met our eligibility criteria—most of which were directed at neurological or cerebrovascular drug development. Together, these guidelines offered 55 different recommendations. Some of the most common recommendations included performance of a power calculation to determine sample size, randomized treatment allocation, and characterization of disease phenotype in the animal model prior to experimentation.
Conclusions
By identifying the most recurrent recommendations among preclinical guidelines, we provide a starting point for developing preclinical guidelines in other disease domains. We also provide a basis for the study and evaluation of preclinical research practice.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
The development process for new drugs is lengthy and complex. It begins in the laboratory, where scientists investigate the causes of diseases and identify potential new treatments. Next, promising interventions undergo preclinical research in cells and in animals (in vivo animal experiments) to test whether the intervention has the expected effect and to support the generalization (extension) of this treatment–effect relationship to patients. Drugs that pass these tests then enter clinical trials, where their safety and efficacy is tested in selected groups of patients under strictly controlled conditions. Finally, the government bodies responsible for drug approval review the results of the clinical trials, and successful drugs receive a marketing license, usually a decade or more after the initial laboratory work. Notably, only 11% of agents that enter clinical testing (investigational drugs) are ultimately licensed.
Why Was This Study Done?
The frequent failure of investigational drugs during clinical translation is potentially harmful to trial participants. Moreover, the costs of these failures are passed onto healthcare systems in the form of higher drug prices. It would be good, therefore, to reduce the attrition rate of investigational drugs. One possible explanation for the dismal success rate of clinical translation is that preclinical research, the key resource for justifying clinical development, is flawed. To address this possibility, several groups of preclinical researchers have issued guidelines intended to improve the design and execution of in vivo animal studies. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the authors identify the experimental practices that are commonly recommended in these guidelines and organize these recommendations according to the type of threat to validity (internal, construct, or external) that they address. Internal threats to validity are factors that confound reliable inferences about treatment–effect relationships in preclinical research. For example, experimenter expectation may bias outcome assessment. Construct threats to validity arise when researchers mischaracterize the relationship between an experimental system and the clinical disease it is intended to represent. For example, researchers may use an animal model for a complex multifaceted clinical disease that only includes one characteristic of the disease. External threats to validity are unseen factors that frustrate the transfer of treatment–effect relationships from animal models to patients.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 26 preclinical guidelines that met their predefined eligibility criteria. Twelve guidelines addressed preclinical research for neurological and cerebrovascular drug development; other disorders covered by guidelines included cardiac and circulatory disorders, sepsis, pain, and arthritis. Together, the guidelines offered 55 different recommendations for the design and execution of preclinical in vivo animal studies. Nineteen recommendations addressed threats to internal validity. The most commonly included recommendations of this type called for the use of power calculations to ensure that sample sizes are large enough to yield statistically meaningful results, random allocation of animals to treatment groups, and “blinding” of researchers who assess outcomes to treatment allocation. Among the 25 recommendations that addressed threats to construct validity, the most commonly included recommendations called for characterization of the properties of the animal model before experimentation and matching of the animal model to the human manifestation of the disease. Finally, six recommendations addressed threats to external validity. The most commonly included of these recommendations suggested that preclinical research should be replicated in different models of the same disease and in different species, and should also be replicated independently.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This systematic review identifies a range of investigational recommendations that preclinical researchers believe address threats to the validity of preclinical efficacy studies. Many of these recommendations are not widely implemented in preclinical research at present. Whether the failure to implement them explains the frequent discordance between the results on drug safety and efficacy obtained in preclinical research and in clinical trials is currently unclear. These findings provide a starting point, however, for the improvement of existing preclinical research guidelines for specific diseases, and for the development of similar guidelines for other diseases. They also provide an evidence-based platform for the analysis of preclinical evidence and for the study and evaluation of preclinical research practice. These findings should, therefore, be considered by investigators, institutional review bodies, journals, and funding agents when designing, evaluating, and sponsoring translational research.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001489.
The US Food and Drug Administration provides information about drug approval in the US for consumers and for health professionals; its Patient Network provides a step-by-step description of the drug development process that includes information on preclinical research
The UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) provides information about all aspects of the scientific evaluation and approval of new medicines in the UK; its My Medicine: From Laboratory to Pharmacy Shelf web pages describe the drug development process from scientific discovery, through preclinical and clinical research, to licensing and ongoing monitoring
The STREAM website provides ongoing information about policy, ethics, and practices used in clinical translation of new drugs
The CAMARADES collaboration offers a “supporting framework for groups involved in the systematic review of animal studies” in stroke and other neurological diseases
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001489
PMCID: PMC3720257  PMID: 23935460
12.  An Environment for Document Engineering of Clinical Guidelines 
In this paper, we present the G-DEE system, a document engineering environment aimed at clinical guidelines. This system represents an extension of current visual interfaces for guidelines encoding, in that it supports automatic text processing functions which identify linguistic markers of document structure, such as recommendations, thereby decreasing the complexity of operations required by the user. Such markers are identified by shallow parsing of free text and are automatically marked up as an early step of document structuring. From this first representation, it is possible to identify elements of guidelines contents, such as decision variables, and produce elements of GEM encoding, using rules defined as XSL style sheets. We tested our automatic structuring system on a set of sentences extracted from French clinical guidelines. As a result, 97% of the occurrences of deontic operators and their scopes were correctly marked up. G-DEE can be used for various purposes, from research into guidelines structure to assisting the encoding of guidelines into a GEM format or into decision rules.
PMCID: PMC1560744  PMID: 16779045
13.  Does GEM-Encoding Clinical Practice Guidelines Improve the Quality of Knowledge Bases? A Study with the Rule-Based Formalism 
The aim of this work was to determine whether the GEM-encoding step could improve the representation of clinical practice guidelines as formalized knowledge bases. We used the 1999 Canadian recommendations for the management of hypertension, chosen as the knowledge source in the ASTI project. We first clarified semantic ambiguities of therapeutic sequences recommended in the guideline by proposing an interpretative framework of therapeutic strategies. Then, after a formalization step to standardize the terms used to characterize clinical situations, we created the GEM-encoded instance of the guideline. We developed a module for the automatic derivation of a rule base, BR-GEM, from the instance. BR-GEM was then compared to the rule base, BR-ASTI, embedded within the critic mode of ASTI, and manually built by two physicians from the same Canadian guideline. As compared to BR-ASTI, BR-GEM is more specific and covers more clinical situations. When evaluated on 10 patient cases, the GEM-based approach led to promising results.
PMCID: PMC1480282  PMID: 14728173
14.  Evidence-informed recommendations for constructing and disseminating messages supplementing the new Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:419.
Background
Few validated guidelines exist for developing messages in health promotion practice. In clinical practice, the Appraisal of Guidelines, Research, and Evaluation II (AGREE II) Instrument is the international gold standard for guideline assessment, development, and reporting. In a case study format, this paper describes the application of the AGREE II principles to guide the development of health promotion guidelines for constructing messages to supplement the new Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines (CPAG) released in 2011.
Methods
The AGREE II items were modified to suit the objectives of developing messages that (1) clarify key components of the new CPAG and (2) motivate Canadians to meet the CPAG. The adapted AGREE II Instrument was used as a systematic guide for the recommendation development process. Over a two-day meeting, five workgroups (one for each CPAG – child, youth, adult, older adult – and one overarching group) of five to six experts (including behavior change, messaging, and exercise physiology researchers, key stakeholders, and end users) reviewed and discussed evidence for creating and targeting messages to supplement the new CPAG. Recommendations were summarized and reviewed by workgroup experts. The recommendations were pilot tested among end users and then finalized by the workgroup.
Results
The AGREE II was a useful tool in guiding the development of evidence-based specific recommendations for constructing and disseminating messages that supplement and increase awareness of the new CPAG (child, youth, adults, and older adults). The process also led to the development of sample messages and provision of a rationale alongside the recommendations.
Conclusions
To our knowledge, these are the first set of evidence-informed recommendations for constructing and disseminating messages supplementing physical activity guidelines. This project also represents the first application of international standards for guideline development (i.e., AGREE II) to the creation of practical recommendations specifically aimed to inform health promotion and public health practice. The messaging recommendations have the potential to increase the public health impact of evidence-based guidelines.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-419
PMCID: PMC3654879  PMID: 23634998
Physical activity guidelines; AGREE II; Messaging; Knowledge translation
15.  An ontological approach for the development of shareable guidelines. 
Computer-based clinical guidelines and protocols are being increasingly applied in diverse areas. Although there is still little standardization to facilitate sharing, various parties are engaged in the development of shareable guideline representation formalisms and corresponding decision support systems. This paper mentions some of these developed representations, discusses their pros en cons, and demonstrates and discusses a new approach, which combines common elements from earlier-developed formalisms with new ones to improve the reusability and shareability of developed guidelines. An ontological representation is presented that formalizes guidelines in terms of domain-specific knowledge and employed generic strategies that use this domain-specific knowledge in order to solve particular guideline tasks. Furthermore, a framework is described that supports this representation and three examples are shown of guidelines of various granularity and complexity that were developed by means of this approach.
PMCID: PMC2244001  PMID: 11079866
16.  The updating of clinical practice guidelines: insights from an international survey 
Background
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) have become increasingly popular, and the methodology to develop guidelines has evolved enormously. However, little attention has been given to the updating process, in contrast to the appraisal of the available literature. We conducted an international survey to identify current practices in CPG updating and explored the need to standardize and improve the methods.
Methods
We developed a questionnaire (28 items) based on a review of the existing literature about guideline updating and expert comments. We carried out the survey between March and July 2009, and it was sent by email to 106 institutions: 69 members of the Guidelines International Network who declared that they developed CPGs; 30 institutions included in the U.S. National Guideline Clearinghouse database that published more than 20 CPGs; and 7 institutions selected by an expert committee.
Results
Forty-four institutions answered the questionnaire (42% response rate). In the final analysis, 39 completed questionnaires were included. Thirty-six institutions (92%) reported that they update their guidelines. Thirty-one institutions (86%) have a formal procedure for updating their guidelines, and 19 (53%) have a formal procedure for deciding when a guideline becomes out of date. Institutions describe the process as moderately rigorous (36%) or acknowledge that it could certainly be more rigorous (36%). Twenty-two institutions (61%) alert guideline users on their website when a guideline is older than three to five years or when there is a risk of being outdated. Twenty-five institutions (64%) support the concept of "living guidelines," which are continuously monitored and updated. Eighteen institutions (46%) have plans to design a protocol to improve their guideline-updating process, and 21 (54%) are willing to share resources with other organizations.
Conclusions
Our study is the first to describe the process of updating CPGs among prominent guideline institutions across the world, providing a comprehensive picture of guideline updating. There is an urgent need to develop rigorous international standards for this process and to minimize duplication of effort internationally.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-6-107
PMCID: PMC3191352  PMID: 21914177
17.  PHL1/341: Guidelines for Designing Education Resources for the World Wide Web: Strategies from the Field 
Introduction
An increasing number of professionals, patients, and members of the general public are using the World Wide Web to obtain and/or deliver health information. Although the Web can serve as a highly effective medium for educating and informing, little information is available about how to design effective, accessible, and readable online health information. Additionally, few, if any, comprehensive standards exist on designing educational materials for a Web environment. In response, the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Office of Cancer Information, Communication, and Education (OCICE) developed guidelines on how to design readable, intuitive, and easy-to-navigate health information for patients, the general public and health professionals. Using the guidelines as a framework, this presentation will include:
guidance in identifying whether a resource is appropriate for the Web
design principles and technical considerations when developing online resources
demonstration of NCI publications designed for online viewing
examples of good and bad design
suggestions for implementing the guidelines in academic, community, and clinical settings
Methods
The NCI Guidelines for Designing Educational Resources for the WWW are based on an extensive review of the literature for design, cognitive learning, and Web usability data; reviews of popular health Web sites; Web usability tests conducted by NCI with patients and health professionals; and discussions with experts in the field.
Results
Research data was used to develop the guidelines document, as well as online models of NCI education resources for cancer patients and the public. Initial results indicate improved readability and satisfaction. A plan will be set in place to design all NCI print and online education publications using these guidelines. Additionally, the guidelines will be updated on a continual basis following further testing and evaluation.
Discussion
Since the Internet is increasingly being used as a health information delivery and retrieval vehicle, it is imperative that information is optimally designed and presented to the user. Although the NCI guidelines are a starting point, more research is needed to identify changing user needs and trends, new delivery software, and strategies to tailor information based on the users' preference. The guidelines will continue to be refined and updated as new research and testing results become available.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1.suppl1.e82
PMCID: PMC1761833
Internet; Health Education; Guidelines; Design; Publications
18.  How can information extraction ease formalizing treatment processes in clinical practice guidelines? A method and its evaluation☆ 
Summary
Objective:
Formalizing clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) for a subsequent computer-supported processing is a challenging, but burdensome and time-consuming task. Existing methods and tools to support this task demand detailed medical knowledge, knowledge about the formal representations, and a manual modeling. Furthermore, formalized guideline documents mostly fall far short in terms of readability and understandability for the human domain modeler.
Methods and material:
We propose a new multi-step approach using information extraction methods to support the human modeler by both automating parts of the modeling process and making the modeling process traceable and comprehensible. This paper addresses the first steps to obtain a representation containing processes which is independent of the final guideline representation language.
Results:
We have developed and evaluated several heuristics without the need to apply natural language understanding and implemented them in a framework to apply them to several guidelines from the medical subject of otolaryngology. Findings in the evaluation indicate that using semi-automatic, step-wise information extraction methods are a valuable instrument to formalize CPGs.
Conclusion:
Our evaluation shows that a heuristic-based approach can achieve good results, especially for guidelines with a major portion of semi-structured text. It can be applied to guidelines irrespective to the final guideline representation format.
doi:10.1016/j.artmed.2006.07.011
PMCID: PMC2858817  PMID: 16962747
Information extraction and integration; Clinical practice guidelines; Computer-interpretable guidelines; Guideline representation; Treatment processes; Time-oriented information; Otolaryngology
19.  COM3/369: Knowledge-based Information Systems: A new approach for the representation and retrieval of medical information 
Introduction
Present solutions for the representation and retrieval of medical information from online sources are not very satisfying. Either the retrieval process lacks of precision and completeness the representation does not support the update and maintenance of the represented information. Most efforts are currently put into improving the combination of search engines and HTML based documents. However, due to the current shortcomings of methods for natural language understanding there are clear limitations to this approach. Furthermore, this approach does not solve the maintenance problem. At least medical information exceeding a certain complexity seems to afford approaches that rely on structured knowledge representation and corresponding retrieval mechanisms.
Methods
Knowledge-based information systems are based on the following fundamental ideas. The representation of information is based on ontologies that define the structure of the domain's concepts and their relations. Views on domain models are defined and represented as retrieval schemata. Retrieval schemata can be interpreted as canonical query types focussing on specific aspects of the provided information (e.g. diagnosis or therapy centred views). Based on these retrieval schemata it can be decided which parts of the information in the domain model must be represented explicitly and formalised to support the retrieval process. As representation language propositional logic is used. All other information can be represented in a structured but informal way using text, images etc. Layout schemata are used to assign layout information to retrieved domain concepts. Depending on the target environment HTML or XML can be used.
Results
Based on this approach two knowledge-based information systems have been developed. The 'Ophthalmologic Knowledge-based Information System for Diabetic Retinopathy' (OKIS-DR) provides information on diagnoses, findings, examinations, guidelines, and reference images related to diabetic retinopathy. OKIS-DR uses combinations of findings to specify the information that must be retrieved. The second system focuses on nutrition related allergies and intolerances. Information on allergies and intolerances of a patient are used to retrieve general information on the specified combination of allergies and intolerances. As a special feature the system generates tables showing food types and products that are tolerated or not tolerated by patients. Evaluation by external experts and user groups showed that the described approach of knowledge-based information systems increases the precision and completeness of knowledge retrieval. Due to the structured and non-redundant representation of information the maintenance and update of the information can be simplified. Both systems are available as WWW based online knowledge bases and CD-ROMs (cf. http://mta.gsf.de topic: products).
doi:10.2196/jmir.1.suppl1.e16
PMCID: PMC1761778
Knowledge-based Information Systems; Knowledge-based Systems; Information Retrieval
20.  How Evidence-Based Are the Recommendations in Evidence-Based Guidelines? 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(8):e250.
Background
Treatment recommendations for the same condition from different guideline bodies often disagree, even when the same randomized controlled trial (RCT) evidence is cited. Guideline appraisal tools focus on methodology and quality of reporting, but not on the nature of the supporting evidence. This study was done to evaluate the quality of the evidence (based on consideration of its internal validity, clinical relevance, and applicability) underlying therapy recommendations in evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.
Methods and Findings
A cross-sectional analysis of cardiovascular risk management recommendations was performed for three different conditions (diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, and hypertension) from three pan-national guideline panels (from the United States, Canada, and Europe). Of the 338 treatment recommendations in these nine guidelines, 231 (68%) cited RCT evidence but only 105 (45%) of these RCT-based recommendations were based on high-quality evidence. RCT-based evidence was downgraded most often because of reservations about the applicability of the RCT to the populations specified in the guideline recommendation (64/126 cases, 51%) or because the RCT reported surrogate outcomes (59/126 cases, 47%).
Conclusions
The results of internally valid RCTs may not be applicable to the populations, interventions, or outcomes specified in a guideline recommendation and therefore should not always be assumed to provide high-quality evidence for therapy recommendations.
From an analysis of cardiovascular risk-management recommendations in guidelines produced by pan-national panels, McAlister and colleagues concluded that fewer than half were based on high-quality evidence.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Until recently, doctors largely relied on their own experience to choose the best treatment for their patients. Faced with a patient with high blood pressure (hypertension), for example, the doctor had to decide whether to recommend lifestyle changes or to prescribe drugs to reduce the blood pressure. If he or she chose the latter, he or she then had to decide which drug to prescribe, set a target blood pressure, and decide how long to wait before changing the prescription if this target was not reached. But, over the past decade, numerous clinical practice guidelines have been produced by governmental bodies and medical associations to help doctors make treatment decisions like these. For each guideline, experts have searched the medical literature for the current evidence about the diagnosis and treatment of a disease, evaluated the quality of that evidence, and then made recommendations based on the best evidence available.
Why Was This Study Done?
The recommendations made in different clinical practice guidelines vary, in part because they are based on evidence of varying quality. To help clinicians decide which recommendations to follow, some guidelines indicate the strength of their recommendations by grading them, based on the methods used to collect the underlying evidence. Thus, a randomized clinical trial (RCT)—one in which patients are randomly allocated to different treatments without the patient or clinician knowing the allocation—provides higher-quality evidence than a nonrandomized trial. Similarly, internally valid trials—in which the differences between patient groups are solely due to their different treatments and not to other aspects of the trial—provide high-quality evidence. However, grading schemes rarely consider the size of studies and whether they have focused on clinical or so-called “surrogate” measures. (For example, an RCT of a treatment to reduce heart or circulation [“cardiovascular”] problems caused by high blood pressure might have death rate as a clinical measure; a surrogate endpoint would be blood pressure reduction.) Most guidelines also do not consider how generalizable (applicable) the results of a trial are to the populations, interventions, and outcomes specified in the guideline recommendation. In this study, the researchers have investigated the quality of the evidence underlying recommendations for cardiovascular risk management in nine evidence-based clinical practice guides using these additional criteria.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted the recommendations for managing cardiovascular risk from the current US, Canadian, and European guidelines for the management of diabetes, abnormal blood lipid levels (dyslipidemia), and hypertension. They graded the quality of evidence for each recommendation using the Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) grading scheme, which considers the type of study, its internal validity, its clinical relevance, and how generally applicable the evidence is considered to be. Of 338 evidence-based recommendations, two-thirds were based on evidence collected in internally valid RCTs, but only half of these RCT-based recommendations were based on high-quality evidence. The evidence underlying 64 of the guideline recommendations failed to achieve a high CHEP grade because the RCT data were collected in a population of people with different characteristics to those covered by the guideline. For example, a recommendation to use spironolactone to reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension was based on an RCT in which the participants initially had congestive heart failure with normal blood pressure. Another 59 recommendations were downgraded because they were based on evidence from RCTs that had not focused on clinical measures of effectiveness.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that although most of the recommendations for cardiovascular risk management therapies in the selected guidelines were based on evidence collected in internally valid RCTs, less than one-third were based on high-quality evidence applicable to the populations, treatments, and outcomes specified in guideline recommendations. A limitation of this study is that it analyzed a subset of recommendations in only a few guidelines. Nevertheless, the findings serve to warn clinicians that evidence-based guidelines are not necessarily based on high-quality evidence. In addition, they emphasize the need to make the evidence base underlying guideline recommendations more transparent by using an extended grading system like the CHEP scheme. If this were done, the researchers suggest, it would help clinicians apply guideline recommendations appropriately to their individual patients.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040250.
• Wikipedia contains pages on evidence-based medicine and on clinical practice guidelines (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
• The National Guideline Clearinghouse provides information on US national guidelines
• The Guidelines International Network promotes the systematic development and application of clinical practice guidelines
• Information is available on the Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) (in French and English)
• See information on the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) working group, an organization that has developed an grading scheme similar to the CHEP scheme (in English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0040250
PMCID: PMC1939859  PMID: 17683197
21.  Towards a standardised approach for evaluating guidelines and guidance documents on palliative sedation: study protocol 
BMC Palliative Care  2014;13:34.
Background
Sedation in palliative care has received growing attention in recent years; and so have guidelines, position statements, and related literature that provide recommendations for its practice. Yet little is known collectively about the content, scope and methodological quality of these materials.
According to research, there are large variations in palliative sedation practice, depending on the definition and methodology used. However, a standardised approach to comparing and contrasting related documents, across countries, associations and governmental bodies is lacking. This paper reports on a protocol designed to enable thorough and systematic comparison of guidelines and guidance documents on palliative sedation.
Methods and design
A multidisciplinary and international group of palliative care researchers, identified themes and clinical issues on palliative sedation based on expert consultations and evidence drawn from the EAPC (European Association of Palliative Care) framework for palliative sedation and AGREE II (Appraisal Guideline Research and Evaluation) instrument for guideline assessment. The most relevant themes were selected and built into a comprehensive checklist. This was tested on people working closely with practitioners and patients, for user-friendliness and comprehensibility, and modified where necessary. Next, a systematic search was conducted for guidelines in English, Dutch, Flemish, or Italian. The search was performed in multiple databases (PubMed, CancerLit, CNAHL, Cochrane Library, NHS Evidence and Google Scholar), and via other Internet resources. Hereafter, the final version of the checklist will be used to extract data from selected literature, and the same will be compiled, entered into SPSS, cleaned and analysed systematically for publication.
Discussion
We have together developed a comprehensive checklist in a scientifically rigorous manner to allow standardised and systematic comparison. The protocol is applicable to all guidelines on palliative sedation, and the approach will contribute to rigorous and systematic comparison of international guidelines on any challenging topic such as this. Results from the study will provide valuable insights into common core elements and differences between the selected guidelines, and the extent to which recommendations are derived from, or match those in the EAPC framework. The outcomes of the study will be disseminated via peer-reviewed journals and directly to appropriate audiences.
doi:10.1186/1472-684X-13-34
PMCID: PMC4099031  PMID: 25028571
Palliative sedation; Practice guidelines; Content analysis; Comparative research; Study protocol
22.  Guideline adaptation and implementation planning: a prospective observational study 
Background
Adaptation of high-quality practice guidelines for local use has been advanced as an efficient means to improve acceptability and applicability of evidence-informed care. In a pan-Canadian study, we examined how cancer care groups adapted pre-existing guidelines to their unique context and began implementation planning.
Methods
Using a mixed-methods, case-study design, five cases were purposefully sampled from self-identified groups and followed as they used a structured method and resources for guideline adaptation. Cases received the ADAPTE Collaboration toolkit, facilitation, methodological and logistical support, resources and assistance as required. Documentary and primary data collection methods captured individual case experience, including monthly summaries of meeting and field notes, email/telephone correspondence, and project records. Site visits, process audits, interviews, and a final evaluation forum with all cases contributed to a comprehensive account of participant experience.
Results
Study cases took 12 to >24 months to complete guideline adaptation. Although participants appreciated the structure, most found the ADAPTE method complex and lacking practical aspects. They needed assistance establishing individual guideline mandate and infrastructure, articulating health questions, executing search strategies, appraising evidence, and achieving consensus. Facilitation was described as a multi-faceted process, a team effort, and an essential ingredient for guideline adaptation. While front-line care providers implicitly identified implementation issues during adaptation, they identified a need to add an explicit implementation planning component.
Conclusions
Guideline adaptation is a positive initial step toward evidence-informed care, but adaptation (vs. ‘de novo’ development) did not meet expectations for reducing time or resource commitments. Undertaking adaptation is as much about the process (engagement and capacity building) as it is about the product (adapted guideline). To adequately address local concerns, cases found it necessary to also search and appraise primary studies, resulting in hybrid (adaptation plus de novo) guideline development strategies that required advanced methodological skills.
Adaptation was found to be an action element in the knowledge translation continuum that required integration of an implementation perspective. Accordingly, the adaptation methodology and resources were reformulated and substantially augmented to provide practical assistance to groups not supported by a dedicated guideline panel and to provide more implementation planning support. The resulting framework is called CAN-IMPLEMENT.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-49
PMCID: PMC3668213  PMID: 23656884
Knowledge to action; Practice guidelines; Evidence-informed practice; Knowledge activation; Guideline adaptation; Implementation planning
23.  Representation of Clinical Nursing Protocols Using GEM II & GEM Cutter 
The machineable representation and execution of clinical guidelines has been the focus of research efforts for some time, however there is less examination of whether the methods and techniques for guidelines are sufficient for clinical protocols. The objective of this study was to test the feasibility of using the Guideline Elements Model II (GEM II) and GEM Cutter for the representation of clinical protocols, specifically clinical protocols commonly used by nurses. After downloading the GEM Cutter 2.5, we decomposed a set of clinical protocols and analyzed the completeness in which elemental protocol data was represented. One of the most complicated of these protocols (extravasations of infused medication) is presented as an example. While GEM II adequately represents core elements of clinical protocols at the high level, it was not possible to adequately represent sequence and associated role based permissions via use of conditional criteria at branching and procedural levels. Functionality of the tool would also be enhanced with more robust terminology management and support for multi-authoring.
PMCID: PMC3041417  PMID: 21347008
24.  Scaling Up the 2010 World Health Organization HIV Treatment Guidelines in Resource-Limited Settings: A Model-Based Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(12):e1000382.
Rochelle Walensky and colleagues use a model-based analysis to examine which of the 2010 WHO antiretroviral therapy guidelines should be implemented first in resource-limited settings by ranking them according to survival, cost-effectiveness, and equity.
Background
The new 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) HIV treatment guidelines recommend earlier antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation (CD4<350 cells/µl instead of CD4<200 cells/µl), multiple sequential ART regimens, and replacement of first-line stavudine with tenofovir. This paper considers what to do first in resource-limited settings where immediate implementation of all of the WHO recommendations is not feasible.
Methods and Findings
We use a mathematical model and local input data to project clinical and economic outcomes in a South African HIV-infected cohort (mean age = 32.8 y, mean CD4 = 375/µl). For the reference strategy, we assume that all patients initiate stavudine-based ART with WHO stage III/IV disease and receive one line of ART (stavudine/WHO/one-line). We rank—in survival, cost-effectiveness, and equity terms—all 12 possible combinations of the following: (1) stavudine replacement with tenofovir, (2) ART initiation (by WHO stage, CD4<200 cells/µl, or CD4<350 cells/µl), and (3) one or two regimens, or lines, of available ART. Projected life expectancy for the reference strategy is 99.0 mo. Considering each of the guideline components separately, 5-y survival is maximized with ART initiation at CD4<350 cells/µl (stavudine/<350/µl/one-line, 87% survival) compared with stavudine/WHO/two-lines (66%) and tenofovir/WHO/one-line (66%). The greatest life expectancies are achieved via the following stepwise programmatic additions: stavudine/<350/µl/one-line (124.3 mo), stavudine/<350/µl/two-lines (177.6 mo), and tenofovir/<350/µl/two-lines (193.6 mo). Three program combinations are economically efficient: stavudine/<350/µl/one-line (cost-effectiveness ratio, US$610/years of life saved [YLS]), tenofovir/<350/µl/one-line (US$1,140/YLS), and tenofovir/<350/µl/two-lines (US$2,370/YLS).
Conclusions
In settings where immediate implementation of all of the new WHO treatment guidelines is not feasible, ART initiation at CD4<350 cells/µl provides the greatest short- and long-term survival advantage and is highly cost-effective.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Since 1981, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people, and about 33 million people (30 million of them in low- and middle-income countries) are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. HIV destroys immune system cells (including CD4 cells, a type of lymphocyte), leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections (so-called opportunistic infections). Early in the AIDS epidemic, most people with HIV died within 10 years of infection. Then, in 1996, highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART)—a combination of several powerful antiretroviral drugs—was developed. Now, in resource-rich countries, clinicians care for people with HIV by prescribing ART regimens tailored to each individual's needs. They also regularly measure the amount of virus in their patients' blood, test for antiretroviral-resistant viruses, and monitor the health of their patients' immune systems through regular CD4 cell counts. As a result, the life expectancy of patients with HIV in developed countries has dramatically improved.
Why Was This Study Done?
Initially, resource-limited countries could not afford to provide ART for their populations, and the life expectancy of HIV-positive people remained low. Now, through the concerted efforts of governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other international agencies, more than a third of the people in low- and middle-income countries who need ART are receiving it. However, many without access are still in need of ART, and ART programs in developing countries follow a public-health approach rather than an individualized approach. That is, drug regimens, clinical decision-making, and disease monitoring are all standardized and follow recommendations in the 2006 WHO ART guidelines. This year (2010), these guidelines were revised. The guidelines now recommend the following: earlier ART initiation—when the CD4 count falls below 350/µl of blood, instead of below 200/µl as in the 2006 guidelines; the provision of sequential ART regimens instead of a single regimen; and the replacement of the antiretroviral drug stavudine with tenofovir, a less toxic but more expensive drug, in first-line ART regimens. However, many resource-limited countries are still struggling to implement the 2006 guidelines, so which of these new recommendations should be prioritized? Here, the researchers use a mathematical model to address this question.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The Cost Effectiveness of AIDS Complications (CEPAC)–International model simulates the natural history and treatment of HIV disease. The researchers entered South African clinical and cost data for HIV treatment into this model and then used it to project survival and costs in a hypothetical group of South African HIV-positive patients under alternative guideline prioritization scenarios. The reference strategy for the simulations (denoted as “stavudine/WHO/one-line”) assumed that patients (with a mean CD4 count of 375/µl) began a single stavudine-based ART regimen when they developed WHO stage III/IV HIV disease (i.e., when patients develop multiple opportunistic infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia). When the new guideline recommendations were considered separately, ART initiation at CD4<350/µl (stavudine/<350/µl/one-line) maximized five-year survival. Stepwise adjustment from the reference strategy (which had a life expectancy 99.0 months) through strategies of stavudine/<350/µl/one-line (a projected life expectancy of 124.3 months), stavudine/<350/µl/two-lines (177.6 months), and tenofovir/<350/µl/two-lines (193.6 months) produced the greatest improvements in life expectancy. Finally, strategies of stavudine/<350/µl/one-line, tenofovir/<350/µl/one-line, and tenofovir/<350µl/two-lines produced incremental cost-effectiveness ratios of US$610, US$1,140, and US$2,370 per year of life saved, respectively.
What Do These Findings Mean?
As with all mathematical models, the accuracy of these findings are dependent on the assumptions included in the model and on the data populating it. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that, where resources are limited and immediate implementation of all the new WHO recommendations is impossible, ART initiation at a CD4 count of less than 350/µl would provide the greatest survival advantage and would be very cost-effective. In countries that are already initiating ART at this threshold and that have access to CD4 monitoring, a switch from stavudine to tenofovir would further increase survival and would also be cost-effective. Finally, although access to second-line ART regimen would provide more clinical benefits than access to tenofovir, the cost of this change in strategy would be substantially greater. Importantly, these findings should help to avoid the complete dismissal of the revised WHO guidelines on the basis of cost and should help policy makers adjust their ART program strategies to maximize their clinical benefits and cost effectiveness.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000382.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV/AIDS in South Africa and on HIV/AIDS treatment and care (in English and Spanish)
WHO provides information about universal access to AIDS treatment (in English, French, and Spanish); its 2010 ART guidelines can be downloaded
More information on the CEPAC model is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000382
PMCID: PMC3014084  PMID: 21209794
25.  Developing Nursing Computer Interpretable Guidelines: a Feasibility Study of Heart Failure Guidelines in Homecare. 
AMIA Annual Symposium Proceedings  2013;2013:1353-1361.
Homecare is the fastest growing healthcare sector and evidence based information systems are critically needed. Nurses provide most of the care in homecare setting, yet there is a lack of knowledge on the feasibility of applying existing methodologies to generate computer interpretable nursing guidelines for home care. This study examined the feasibility of encoding homecare nursing heart failure guideline into a computer interpretable format. First, we achieved experts’ consensus on the relevant guideline. Then, after training on the graphical tool for gradual knowledge specification (Gesher), we generated a comprehensive, hierarchical and time-oriented computer interpretable guideline using one of the guideline modeling languages (Asbru). The final guideline included 167 recommendations and experts’ evaluation confirmed the adequacy of guideline knowledge representation. Future work should expand the applicability of our methodology and tools to nursing specialties other than heart failure and develop methods for comprehensive quality evaluation of the resulting guidelines.
PMCID: PMC3900150  PMID: 24551412

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