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1.  A Distributed, Collaborative, Structuring Model for a Clinical-Guideline Digital-Library 
The Digital Electronic Guideline Library (DeGeL) is a Web-based framework and a set of distributed tools that facilitate gradual conversion of clinical guidelines from free text, through semi-structured text, to a fully structured, executable representation. Thus, guidelines exist in a hybrid, multiple-format representation The three formats support increasingly sophisticated computational tasks. The tools perform semantic markup, classification, search, and browsing, and support computational modules that we are developing, for run-time application and retrospective quality assessment. We describe the DeGeL architecture and its collaborative-authoring authorization model, which is based on (1) multiple medical-specialty authoring groups, each including a group manager who controls group authorizations, and (2) a hierarchical authorization model based on the different functions involved in the hybrid guideline-specification process. We have implemented the core modules of the DeGeL architecture and demonstrated distributed markup and retrieval using the knowledge roles of two guidelines ontologies (Asbru and GEM). We are currently evaluating several of the DeGeL tools.
PMCID: PMC1480281  PMID: 14728241
2.  Versioning computer-interpretable guidelines: Semi-automatic modeling of ‘Living Guidelines’ using an information extraction method☆ 
Summary
Objective
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) are means to provide evidence-based medical knowledge. In order to make up-to-date “best” scientific evidence available these documents need to be updated on an ongoing basis. An effective method to accomplish this aim is offered by the so-called “living guidelines”: Living guidelines are documents presenting up-to-date and state-of-the-art knowledge to practitioners. To have guidelines implemented by computer-support they have to be formalized in a computer-interpretable form in a first step. Due to the complexity of such formats the formalization process is burdensome and time-consuming. Automating parts of the modeling process and, consequently, modeling updates of these guideline documents are demanded.
Methods and material
The LASSIE methodology supports this task by formalizing guidelines in several steps from the textual form to the guideline representation language Asbru using a document-centric approach. LASSIE uses information extraction techniques to semi-automatically accomplish these steps. We apply LASSIE to support the implementation of living guidelines.
Results
Based on a living guideline published by the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) we show that adaptations of previously formalized guidelines can be accomplished easily and fast. Thereby, the different versions of guideline documents are compared and updates are identified. Due to the traceable formalization method of linking text parts and their corresponding formal models, we are able to inherit unchanged models from previously formalized versions. Thus, we only need to formalize updated text parts using the semi-automatic formalization method LASSIE.
Conclusion
We propose a simple, time-saving, but effective method called LASSIE to formalize new guideline versions of previously formalized CPGs. Furthermore, models that have been added or modified by knowledge engineers in previous versions can also be transferred easily. This will result in a faster implementation of new guideline versions also known as living guidelines to provide up-to-date knowledge necessary for accomplishing the daily work of health care professionals.
doi:10.1016/j.artmed.2008.08.009
PMCID: PMC2859225  PMID: 18950994
Information extraction; Clinical practice guidelines; Living guidelines; Computer-interpretable guidelines; Guideline representation; Treatment processes; Asthma
3.  A Scalable Architecture for Incremental Specification and Maintenance of Procedural and Declarative Clinical Decision-Support Knowledge 
Clinical guidelines have been shown to improve the quality of medical care and to reduce its costs. However, most guidelines exist in a free-text representation and, without automation, are not sufficiently accessible to clinicians at the point of care. A prerequisite for automated guideline application is a machine-comprehensible representation of the guidelines. In this study, we designed and implemented a scalable architecture to support medical experts and knowledge engineers in specifying and maintaining the procedural and declarative aspects of clinical guideline knowledge, resulting in a machine comprehensible representation. The new framework significantly extends our previous work on the Digital electronic Guidelines Library (DeGeL) The current study designed and implemented a graphical framework for specification of declarative and procedural clinical knowledge, Gesher. We performed three different experiments to evaluate the functionality and usability of the major aspects of the new framework: Specification of procedural clinical knowledge, specification of declarative clinical knowledge, and exploration of a given clinical guideline. The subjects included clinicians and knowledge engineers (overall, 27 participants). The evaluations indicated high levels of completeness and correctness of the guideline specification process by both the clinicians and the knowledge engineers, although the best results, in the case of declarative-knowledge specification, were achieved by teams including a clinician and a knowledge engineer. The usability scores were high as well, although the clinicians’ assessment was significantly lower than the assessment of the knowledge engineers.
doi:10.2174/1874431101004010255
PMCID: PMC3099486  PMID: 21611137
Medical informatics; clinical guidelines; decision support systems; knowledge representation; knowledge acquisition; knowledge bases; ontologies; information retrieval; human computer interaction; artificial intelligence; digital libraries; service oriented architecture.
4.  An intention-based language for representing clinical guidelines. 
Automated support for guideline-based care would be enhanced considerably by a standard representation of clinical guidelines. To faciliate use and reuse, we suggest a representation that includes the explicit intentions of the guideline's author. These intentions include the desirable actions of the care provider and the patient states to be achieved before, during, and after the administration of the guideline. Intentions are temporal patterns of provider actions or patient states to be maintained, achieved, or avoided. We view automated support as a collaborative effort of the health-care provider and an automated assistant and involves several different tasks. We defined the syntax and, the semantics of a text-based language (ASBRU) for representation and annotation of clinical guidelines. The language supports maintenance of the automated assistant's knowledge base and could improve the quality and flexibility of the automated assistant's recommendations. In the ASGAARD project, we are developing reasoning mechanisms that use the ASBRU language for execution and critiquing tasks in conjunction with online electronic patient medical records.
PMCID: PMC2233124  PMID: 8947735
5.  SPOCK1 as a potential cancer prognostic marker promotes the proliferation and metastasis of gallbladder cancer cells by activating the PI3K/AKT pathway 
Molecular Cancer  2015;14(1):12.
Background
Gallbladder cancer (GBC) is a leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, and its prognosis remains poor, with 5-year survival of approximately 5%. In this study, we analyzed the involvement of a novel proteoglycan, Sparc/osteonectin, cwcv, and kazal-like domains proteoglycan 1 (SPOCK1), in the tumor progression and prognosis of human GBC.
Methods
SPOCK1 expression levels were measured in fresh samples and stored specimens of GBC and adjacent nontumor tissues. The effect of SPOCK1 on cell growth, DNA replication, migration and invasion were explored by Cell Counting Kit-8, colony formation, EdU retention assay, wound healing, and transwell migration assays, flow cytometric analysis, western blotting, and in vivo tumorigenesis and metastasis in nude mice.
Results
SPOCK1 mRNA and protein levels were increased in human GBC tissues compared with those in nontumor tissues. Immunohistochemical analysis indicated that SPOCK1 levels were increased in tumors that became metastatic, compared with those that did not, which was significantly associated with histological differentiation and patients with shorter overall survival periods. Knockdown of SPOCK1 expression by lentivirus-mediated shRNA transduction resulted in significant inhibition of GBC cell growth, colony formation, DNA replication, and invasion in vitro. The knockdown cells also formed smaller xenografted tumors than control GBC cells in nude mice. Overexpression of SPOCK1 had the opposite effects. In addition, SPOCK1 promoted cancer cell migration and epithelial-mesenchymal transition by regulating the expression of relevant genes. We found that activation of the PI3K/Akt pathway was involved in the oncogenic functions of SPOCK1 in GBC.
Conclusions
SPOCK1 activates PI3K/Akt signaling to block apoptosis and promote proliferation and metastasis by GBC cells in vitro and in vivo. Levels of SPOCK1 increase with the progression of human GBC. SPOCK1 acts as an oncogene and may be a prognostic factor or therapeutic target for patients with GBC.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12943-014-0276-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12943-014-0276-y
PMCID: PMC4320842  PMID: 25623055
Gallbladder cancer; SPOCK1; Tumor progression; RNA interference; Epithelial-mesenchymal transition
6.  A Graphical Framework for Specification of Clinical Guidelines at Multiple Representation Levels 
Formalization of a clinical guideline for purposes of automated application and quality assessment mainly involves conversion of its free-text representation into a machine comprehensible representation, i.e., a formal language, thus enabling automated support. The main issues involved in this process are related to the collaboration between the expert physician and the knowledge engineer. We introduce GESHER - a graphical framework for specification of clinical guidelines at multiple representation levels. The GESHER architecture facilitates incremental specification through a set of views adapted to each representation level, enabling this process to proceed smoothly and in a transparent fashion, fostering extensive collaboration among the various types of users. The GESHER framework supports specification of guidelines at multiple representation levels, in more than one specification language, and uses the DeGeL digital guideline library architecture as its knowledge base. The GESHER architecture also uses a temporal abstraction knowledge base to store its declarative knowledge, and a standard medical-vocabularies server for generic specification of key terms, thus enabling reuse of the specification at multiple sites.
PMCID: PMC1560835  PMID: 16779126
7.  A Pattern-based Analysis of Clinical Computer-interpretable Guideline Modeling Languages 
Objectives
Languages used to specify computer-interpretable guidelines (CIGs) differ in their approaches to addressing particular modeling challenges. The main goals of this article are: (1) to examine the expressive power of CIG modeling languages, and (2) to define the differences, from the control-flow perspective, between process languages in workflow management systems and modeling languages used to design clinical guidelines.
Design
The pattern-based analysis was applied to guideline modeling languages Asbru, EON, GLIF, and PROforma. We focused on control-flow and left other perspectives out of consideration.
Measurements
We evaluated the selected CIG modeling languages and identified their degree of support of 43 control-flow patterns. We used a set of explicitly defined evaluation criteria to determine whether each pattern is supported directly, indirectly, or not at all.
Results
PROforma offers direct support for 22 of 43 patterns, Asbru 20, GLIF 17, and EON 11. All four directly support basic control-flow patterns, cancellation patterns, and some advance branching and synchronization patterns. None support multiple instances patterns. They offer varying levels of support for synchronizing merge patterns and state-based patterns. Some support a few scenarios not covered by the 43 control-flow patterns.
Conclusion
CIG modeling languages are remarkably close to traditional workflow languages from the control-flow perspective, but cover many fewer workflow patterns. CIG languages offer some flexibility that supports modeling of complex decisions and provide ways for modeling some decisions not covered by workflow management systems. Workflow management systems may be suitable for clinical guideline applications.
doi:10.1197/jamia.M2389
PMCID: PMC2213484  PMID: 17712087
8.  Genome-Wide Association Analyses Identify SPOCK as a Key Novel Gene Underlying Age at Menarche 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(3):e1000420.
For females, menarche is a most significant physiological event. Age at menarche (AAM) is a trait with high genetic determination and is associated with major complex diseases in women. However, specific genes for AAM variation are largely unknown. To identify genetic factors underlying AAM variation, a genome-wide association study (GWAS) examining about 380,000 SNPs was conducted in 477 Caucasian women. A follow-up replication study was performed to validate our major GWAS findings using two independent Caucasian cohorts with 854 siblings and 762 unrelated subjects, respectively, and one Chinese cohort of 1,387 unrelated subjects—all females. Our GWAS identified a novel gene, SPOCK (Sparc/Osteonectin, CWCV, and Kazal-like domains proteoglycan), which had seven SNPs associated with AAM with genome-wide false discovery rate (FDR) q<0.05. Six most significant SNPs of the gene were selected for validation in three independent replication cohorts. All of the six SNPs were replicated in at least one cohort. In particular, SNPs rs13357391 and rs1859345 were replicated both within and across different ethnic groups in all three cohorts, with p values of 5.09×10−3 and 4.37×10−3, respectively, in the Chinese cohort and combined p values (obtained by Fisher's method) of 5.19×10−5 and 1.02×10−4, respectively, in all three replication cohorts. Interestingly, SPOCK can inhibit activation of MMP-2 (matrix metalloproteinase-2), a key factor promoting endometrial menstrual breakdown and onset of menstrual bleeding. Our findings, together with the functional relevance, strongly supported that the SPOCK gene underlies variation of AAM.
Author Summary
Menarche is a physical milestone in a woman's life. Age at menarche (AAM) is related to many common female health problems. AAM is mainly determined by genetic factors. However, the specific genes and the associated mechanisms underlying AAM are largely unknown. Here, taking advantage of the most recent technological advances in the field of human genetics, we identified multiple genetic variants in a gene, SPOCK, which are associated with AAM variation in a group of Caucasian women. This association was subsequently confirmed not only in two independent groups of Caucasian women but also across ethnic boundaries in one group of Chinese women. In addition, SPOCK has a function in regulating a key factor involved in menstrual cycles, MMP-2, which provides further support to our findings. Our study provides a solid basis for further investigation of the gene, which may help to reveal the underlying mechanisms for the timing of menarche and for AAM's relationship with women's health in general.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000420
PMCID: PMC2652107  PMID: 19282985
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  A systematic process for converting text-based guidelines into a linear algorithm for electronic implementation. 
Clinical practice guidelines are increasingly important for improving the quality and the process of healthcare delivery. Unfortunately, most guidelines are available only in a text-based format, which is difficult to integrate into clinical practice. Computers can facilitate guideline integration into clinical practice; however, this migration to computers requires translating text into intermediary representations. One type of representation that is readily adaptable for computerization is a linear algorithm. This paper describes a systematic process to convert text-based clinical practice guidelines into a linear algorithm with structured content, as an intermediate step to electronic implementation. The process includes: 1) defining applicability criteria, 2) identifying entry points, 3) defining decision points, 4) defining actions, 5) creating a linear algorithm that links decision points and actions, and 6) adding supporting resources. This process has been used successfully to prepare more than two dozen guidelines for computerization. It has been tested by several physicians and informaticians and shown to be transferable to various user groups. The availability of a systematic process to convert text-based guidelines into a structured intermediary format for electronic implementation can facilitate the computerization of guidelines and can inform guideline content developers regarding the critical elements that need to be explicitly stated in guidelines to support electronic implementation.
PMCID: PMC2243842  PMID: 11079935
13.  Evidence-based guidelines in the evaluation of work disability: an international survey and a comparison of quality of development 
BMC Public Health  2009;9:349.
Background
In social insurance, the evaluation of work disability is becoming stricter as priority is given to the resumption of work, which calls for a guarantee of quality for these evaluations. Evidence-based guidelines have become a major instrument in the quality control of health care, and the quality of these guidelines' development can be assessed using the AGREE instrument. In social insurance medicine, such guidelines are relatively new. We were interested to know what guidelines have been developed to support the medical evaluation of work disability and the quality of these guidelines.
Methods
Five European countries that were reported to use guidelines were approached, using a recent inventory of evaluations of work disability in Europe. We focused on guidelines that are disease-oriented and formally prescribed in social insurance medicine. Using the AGREE instrument, these guidelines were appraised by two researchers. We asked two experts involved in guideline development to indicate if they agreed with our results and to provide explanations for insufficient scores.
Results
We found six German and sixteen Dutch sets of disease-oriented guidelines in official use. The AGREE instrument was applicable, requiring minor adaptations. The appraisers reached consensus on all items. Each guideline scored well on 'scope and purpose' and 'clarity and presentation'. The guidelines scored moderately on 'stakeholder involvement' in the Netherlands, but insufficiently in Germany, due mainly to the limited involvement of patients' representatives in this country. All guidelines had low scores on 'rigour of development', which was due partly to a lack of documentation and of existing evidence. 'Editorial independence' and 'applicability' had low scores in both countries as a result of how the production was organised.
Conclusion
Disease-oriented guidelines in social insurance medicine for the evaluation of work disability are a recent phenomenon, so far restricted to Germany and the Netherlands. The AGREE instrument is suitably applicable to assess the quality of guideline development in social insurance medicine, but some of the scoring rules need to be adapted to the context of social insurance. Existing guidelines do not meet the AGREE criteria to a sufficient level. The way patients' representatives can be involved needs further discussion. The guidelines would profit from more specific recommendations and, for providing evidence, more research is needed on the functional capacity of people with disabilities.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-349
PMCID: PMC2754463  PMID: 19765295
14.  Guidelines, Editors, Pharma And The Biological Paradigm Shift 
Mens Sana Monographs  2007;5(1):27-30.
Private investment in biomedical research has increased over the last few decades. At most places it has been welcomed as the next best thing to technology itself. Much of the intellectual talent from academic institutions is getting absorbed in lucrative positions in industry. Applied research finds willing collaborators in venture capital funded industry, so a symbiotic growth is ensured for both.
There are significant costs involved too. As academia interacts with industry, major areas of conflict of interest especially applicable to biomedical research have arisen. They are related to disputes over patents and royalty, hostile encounters between academia and industry, as also between public and private enterprise, legal tangles, research misconduct of various types, antagonistic press and patient-advocate lobbies and a general atmosphere in which commercial interest get precedence over patient welfare.
Pharma image stinks because of a number of errors of omission and commission. A recent example is suppression of negative findings about Bayer's Trasylol (Aprotinin) and the marketing maneuvers of Eli Lilly's Xigris (rhAPC). Whenever there is a conflict between patient vulnerability and profit motives, pharma often tends to tilt towards the latter. Moreover there are documents that bring to light how companies frequently cross the line between patient welfare and profit seeking behaviour.
A voluntary moratorium over pharma spending to pamper drug prescribers is necessary. A code of conduct adopted recently by OPPI in India to limit pharma company expenses over junkets and trinkets is a welcome step.
Clinical practice guidelines (CPG) are considered important as they guide the diagnostic/therapeutic regimen of a large number of medical professionals and hospitals and provide recommendations on drugs, their dosages and criteria for selection. Along with clinical trials, they are another area of growing influence by the pharmaceutical industry. For example, in a relatively recent survey of 2002, it was found that about 60% of 192 authors of clinical practice guidelines reported they had financial connections with the companies whose drugs were under consideration. There is a strong case for making CPGs based not just on effectivity but cost effectivity. The various ramifications of this need to be spelt out. Work of bodies like the Appraisal of Guidelines Research and Evaluation (AGREE) Collaboration and Guidelines Advisory Committee (GAC) are also worth a close look.
Even the actions of Foundations that work for disease amelioration have come under scrutiny. The process of setting up ‘Best Practices’ Guidelines for interactions between the pharmaceutical industry and clinicians has already begun and can have important consequences for patient care. Similarly, Good Publication Practice (GPP) for pharmaceutical companies have also been set up aimed at improving the behaviour of drug companies while reporting drug trials
The rapidly increasing trend toward influence and control by industry has become a concern for many. It is of such importance that the Association of American Medical Colleges has issued two relatively new documents - one, in 2001, on how to deal with individual conflicts of interest; and the other, in 2002, on how to deal with institutional conflicts of interest in the conduct of clinical research. Academic Medical Centers (AMCs), as also medical education and research institutions at other places, have to adopt means that minimize their conflicts of interest.
Both medical associations and research journal editors are getting concerned with individual and institutional conflicts of interest in the conduct of clinical research and documents are now available which address these issues. The 2001 ICMJE revision calls for full disclosure of the sponsor's role in research, as well as assurance that the investigators are independent of the sponsor, are fully accountable for the design and conduct of the trial, have independent access to all trial data and control all editorial and publication decisions. However the findings of a 2002 study suggest that academic institutions routinely participate in clinical research that does not adhere to ICMJE standards of accountability, access to data and control of publication.
There is an inevitable slant to produce not necessarily useful but marketable products which ensure the profitability of industry and research grants outflow to academia. Industry supports new, not traditional, therapies, irrespective of what is effective. Whatever traditional therapy is supported is most probably because the company concerned has a product with a big stake there, which has remained a ‘gold standard’ or which that player thinks has still some ‘juice’ left.
Industry sponsorship is mainly for potential medications, not for trying to determine whether there may be non-pharmacological interventions that may be equally good, if not better. In the paradigm shift towards biological psychiatry, the role of industry sponsorship is not overt but probably more pervasive than many have realised, or the right thinking may consider good, for the health of the branch in the long run.
An issue of major concern is protection of the interests of research subjects. Patients agree to become research subjects not only for personal medical benefit but, as an extension, to benefit the rest of the patient population and also advance medical research.
We all accept that industry profits have to be made, and investment in research and development by the pharma industry is massive. However, we must also accept there is a fundamental difference between marketing strategies for other entities and those for drugs.
The ultimate barometer is patient welfare and no drug that compromises it can stand the test of time. So, how does it make even commercial sense in the long term to market substandard products? The greatest mistake long-term players in industry may make is try to adopt the shady techniques of the upstart new entrant. Secrecy of marketing/sales tactics, of the process of manufacture, of other strategies and plans of business expansion, of strategies to tackle competition are fine business tactics. But it is critical that secrecy as a tactic not extend to reporting of research findings, especially those contrary to one's product.
Pharma has no option but to make a quality product, do comprehensive adverse reaction profiles, and market it only if it passes both tests.
Why does pharma adopt questionable tactics? The reasons are essentially two:
What with all the constraints, a drug comes to the pharmacy after huge investments. There are crippling overheads and infrastructure costs to be recovered. And there are massive profit margins to be maintained. If these were to be dependent only on genuine drug discoveries, that would be taking too great a risk.Industry players have to strike the right balance between profit making and credibility. In profit making, the marketing champions play their role. In credibility ratings, researchers and paid spokes-persons play their role. All is hunky dory till marketing is based on credibility. When there is nothing available to make for credibility, something is projected as one and marketing carried out, in the calculated hope that profits can accrue, since profit making must continue endlessly. That is what makes pharma adopt even questionable means to make profits.
Essentially, there are four types of drugs. First, drugs that work and have minimal side-effects; second, drugs which work but have serious side-effects; third, drugs that do not work and have minimal side-effects; and fourth, drugs which work minimally but have serious side-effects. It is the second and fourth types that create major hassles for industry. Often, industry may try to project the fourth type as the second to escape censure.
The major cat and mouse game being played by conscientious researchers is in exposing the third and fourth for what they are and not allowing industry to palm them off as the first and second type respectively. The other major game is in preventing the second type from being projected as the first. The third type are essentially harmless, so they attract censure all right and some merriment at the antics to market them. But they escape anything more than a light rap on the knuckles, except when they are projected as the first type.
What is necessary for industry captains and long-term players is to realise:
Their major propelling force can only be producing the first type. 2. They accept the second type only till they can lay their hands on the first. 3. The third type can be occasionally played around with to shore up profits, but never by projecting them as the first type. 4. The fourth type are the laggards, real threat to credibility and therefore do not deserve any market hype or promotion.
In finding out why most pharma indulges in questionable tactics, we are lead to some interesting solutions to prevent such tactics with the least amount of hassles for all concerned, even as both profits and credibility are kept intact.
doi:10.4103/0973-1229.32176
PMCID: PMC3192391  PMID: 22058616
Academia; Pharmaceutical Industry; Clinical Practice Guidelines; Best Practice Guidelines; Academic Medical Centers; Medical Associations; Research Journals; Clinical Research; Public Welfare; Pharma Image; Corporate Welfare; Biological Psychiatry; Law Suits Against Industry
15.  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
16.  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
17.  The GuideLine Implementability Appraisal (GLIA): development of an instrument to identify obstacles to guideline implementation 
Background
Clinical practice guidelines are not uniformly successful in influencing clinicians' behaviour toward best practices. Implementability refers to a set of characteristics that predict ease of (and obstacles to) guideline implementation. Our objective is to develop and validate a tool for appraisal of implementability of clinical guidelines.
Methods
Indicators of implementability were identified from the literature and used to create items and dimensions of the GuideLine Implementability Appraisal (GLIA). GLIA consists of 31 items, arranged into 10 dimensions. Questions from 9 of the 10 dimensions are applied individually to each recommendation of the guideline. Decidability and Executability are critical dimensions. Other dimensions are Global, Presentation and Formatting, Measurable Outcomes, Apparent Validity, Flexibility, Effect on Process of Care, Novelty/Innovation, and Computability. We conducted a series of validation activities, including validation of the construct of implementability, expert review of content for clarity, relevance, and comprehensiveness, and assessment of construct validity of the instrument. Finally, GLIA was applied to a draft guideline under development by national professional societies.
Results
Evidence of content validity and preliminary support for construct validity were obtained. The GLIA proved to be useful in identifying barriers to implementation in the draft guideline and the guideline was revised accordingly.
Conclusion
GLIA may be useful to guideline developers who can apply the results to remedy defects in their guidelines. Likewise, guideline implementers may use GLIA to select implementable recommendations and to devise implementation strategies that address identified barriers. By aiding the design and operationalization of highly implementable guidelines, our goal is that application of GLIA may help to improve health outcomes, but further evaluation will be required to support this potential benefit.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-5-23
PMCID: PMC1190181  PMID: 16048653
18.  Computer-interpretable Guideline Formalisms 
Implementing Computer-Interpretable Guidelines (CIGs) in active computer-based decision support systems promises to improve the acceptance and application of guidelines in daily practice. The model and underlying language are the core characteristics of every CIG approach. However, currently no standard model or language has been accepted by the CIG community. This aim of this chapter is to provide an overview of well-known approaches and to formulate a set of (minimal) requirements that can be used in the process of developing new CIG approaches or improving existing ones. It presents five CIG approaches (the Arden Syntax, GLIF, PROforma, Asbru and EON), followed by a general discussion of the strong points of each approach as well as their implications for future research.
PMCID: PMC2858861  PMID: 18806319
Computer-interpretable Guidelines; Knowledge Representation; Decision Support Systems
19.  Treatment of depression in cancer patients 
Current Oncology  2007;14(5):180-188.
Question
What is the efficacy of pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments for major depression and other depressive disorders in cancer populations?
Perspectives
Depression occurs at an increased rate in medically ill populations, including patients with cancer. In the general population, depression has been shown to be responsive to structured forms of psychotherapy and to pharmacologic interventions. The Supportive Care Guidelines Group conducted a systematic review of the evidence for the effectiveness of those therapies in patients with depression and cancer and developed the present clinical practice guideline based on that review and on expert consensus.
Outcomes
Outcomes of interest included symptomatic response to treatment, discontinuation rate of treatment, adverse effects, and quality of life.
Methodology
Clinical recommendations were developed by the Supportive Care Guidelines Group based on a systematic review of the published literature through June 2005, feedback obtained from Ontario health care providers on the draft recommendations, the Report Approval Panel (rap) of Cancer Care Ontario’s Program in Evidence-Based Care, and expert consensus.
Results
The systematic review of the literature included eleven trials (seven of pharmacologic agents and four of non-pharmacologic interventions). Feedback received from 44 responding health care providers and the rap on the draft recommendations was addressed and documented in the guideline.
Among providers, 82% agreed with the draft recommendations as stated, 68% agreed that the report should be approved as a practice guideline, and 73% indicated that they would be likely to use the guideline in their own practice.
Practice Guideline
These recommendations apply to adult cancer patients with a diagnosis of major depression or other non-bipolar depressive disorders. They do not address the treatment of non-syndromal depressive symptoms, for which specific antidepressant treatment is not usually indicated. The guideline is intended both for oncology health professionals and for mental health professionals engaged in the treatment of cancer patients. Expert consensus was central to the development of the guideline recommendations because of limited evidence in cancer patients.
Recommendations
Treatment of pain and other reversible physical symptoms should be instituted before or with initiation of specific antidepressant treatment.
Antidepressant medications should be considered for the treatment of moderate-to-severe major depression in cancer patients. Current evidence does not support the relative superiority of one pharmacologic treatment over another, nor the superiority of pharmacologic treatment over psychosocial interventions. The choice of an antidepressant should be informed by individual medication and patient factors: the side effect profiles of the medication, tolerability of treatment (including the potential for interaction with other current medications), response to prior treatment, and patient preference.
Cancer patients diagnosed with major depression may benefit from a combined modality approach that includes both psychosocial and pharmacologic interventions. Psychosocial treatment approaches that may be of value include those that provide information and support and those that address any combination of emotional, cognitive, and behavioural factors.
Qualifying Statements
Referral to a mental health specialist is appropriate when the diagnosis of depression is unclear, when the syndrome is severe, when patients do not respond to treatment, or when other complicating factors that may affect the choice of treatment are present.
Although care has been taken in the preparation of the information contained in this guideline, any person seeking to apply or to consult the guideline is expected to use independent medical judgment in the context of individual clinical circumstances or to seek out the supervision of a qualified clinician.
PMCID: PMC2002483  PMID: 17938701
Practice guideline; depression; treatment; cancer
20.  Maternal and perinatal guideline development in hospitals in South East Asia: the experience of the SEA-ORCHID project 
Background
Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) are commonly used to support practitioners to improve practice. However many studies have raised concerns about guideline quality. The reasons why guidelines are not developed following the established development methods are not clear.
The SEA-ORCHID project aims to increase the generation and use of locally relevant research and improve clinical practice in maternal and perinatal care in four countries in South East Asia. Baseline data highlighted that development of evidence-based CPGs according to recommended processes was very rare in the SEA-ORCHID hospitals. The project investigators suggested that there were aspects of the recommended development process that made it very difficult in the participating hospitals.
We therefore aimed to explore the experience of guideline development and particularly the enablers of and barriers to developing evidence-based guidelines in the nine hospitals in South East Asia participating in the SEA-ORCHID project, so as to better understand how evidence-based guideline development could be facilitated in these settings.
Methods
Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews were undertaken with senior and junior healthcare providers (nurses, midwives, doctors) from the maternal and neonatal services at each of the nine participating hospitals. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and a thematic analysis undertaken.
Results
Seventy-five individual, 25 pair and eleven group interviews were conducted. Participants clearly valued evidence-based guidelines. However they also identified several major barriers to guideline development including time, lack of awareness of process, difficulties searching for evidence and arranging guideline development group meetings, issues with achieving multi-disciplinarity and consumer involvement. They also highlighted the central importance of keeping guidelines up-to-date.
Conclusion
Healthcare providers in the SEA-ORCHID hospitals face a series of barriers to developing evidence-based guidelines. At present, in many hospitals, several of these barriers are insurmountable, and as a result, rigorous, evidence-based guidelines are not being developed. Given the acknowledged benefits of evidence-based guidelines, perhaps a new approach to supporting their development in these contexts is needed.
doi:10.1186/1478-4505-7-10
PMCID: PMC2683833  PMID: 19422716
21.  Guidelines on anticoagulant treatment in atrial fibrillation in Great Britain: variation in content and implications for treatment. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1998;316(7130):509-513.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the content of guidelines on the use of anticoagulant treatment in patients with atrial fibrillation and the impact of variations in guidelines on treatment. DESIGN: Postal survey of guidelines, semistructured interview with lead developers of guidelines, and application of guidelines to patient sample. SUBJECTS: 15 lead developers of the 20 guidelines identified in the postal survey were interviewed. 100 patients over 65 with atrial fibrillation to whom the guidelines were applied. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Evaluation of guidelines and the methods of dissemination, implementation, review, and evaluation; proportion of patients recommended for anticoagulant treatment by each guideline; and level of agreement between guidelines. RESULTS: There was considerable variation in whether anticoagulant treatment was recommended for subjects (range 13% to 100%, kappa = 0.12). Guidelines varied greatly in advice on treatment by age, the use of echocardiography, and the target value or range of the international normalised ratio (8 of the 20 guidelines included values unlikely to be effective). Development was unsystematic; evidence based approaches were rarely used, 9 of the 15 lead developers had developed the guidelines themselves, and the 6 guidelines developed by groups relied on informal consensus. Methods to support effective dissemination, implementation, and evaluation were limited. CONCLUSION: The widespread non-systematic production of guidelines has led to considerable variation with implications for the quality of care and clinical decision making. There is a need for a central, well funded programme of guideline development to ensure that valid guidelines are produced and disseminated.
PMCID: PMC2665660  PMID: 9501712
22.  Retrospective checking of compliance with practice guidelines for acute stroke care: a novel experiment using openEHR’s Guideline Definition Language 
Background
Providing scalable clinical decision support (CDS) across institutions that use different electronic health record (EHR) systems has been a challenge for medical informatics researchers. The lack of commonly shared EHR models and terminology bindings has been recognised as a major barrier to sharing CDS content among different organisations. The openEHR Guideline Definition Language (GDL) expresses CDS content based on openEHR archetypes and can support any clinical terminologies or natural languages. Our aim was to explore in an experimental setting the practicability of GDL and its underlying archetype formalism. A further aim was to report on the artefacts produced by this new technological approach in this particular experiment. We modelled and automatically executed compliance checking rules from clinical practice guidelines for acute stroke care.
Methods
We extracted rules from the European clinical practice guidelines as well as from treatment contraindications for acute stroke care and represented them using GDL. Then we executed the rules retrospectively on 49 mock patient cases to check the cases’ compliance with the guidelines, and manually validated the execution results. We used openEHR archetypes, GDL rules, the openEHR reference information model, reference terminologies and the Data Archetype Definition Language. We utilised the open-sourced GDL Editor for authoring GDL rules, the international archetype repository for reusing archetypes, the open-sourced Ocean Archetype Editor for authoring or modifying archetypes and the CDS Workbench for executing GDL rules on patient data.
Results
We successfully represented clinical rules about 14 out of 19 contraindications for thrombolysis and other aspects of acute stroke care with 80 GDL rules. These rules are based on 14 reused international archetypes (one of which was modified), 2 newly created archetypes and 51 terminology bindings (to three terminologies). Our manual compliance checks for 49 mock patients were a complete match versus the automated compliance results.
Conclusions
Shareable guideline knowledge for use in automated retrospective checking of guideline compliance may be achievable using GDL. Whether the same GDL rules can be used for at-the-point-of-care CDS remains unknown.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-14-39
PMCID: PMC4052843  PMID: 24886468
Computer-assisted decision making; Practice guideline; Guideline adherence; Electronic health records; Semantics; openEHR; Artificial intelligence; Stroke
23.  Patient and public attitudes to and awareness of clinical practice guidelines: a systematic review with thematic and narrative syntheses 
Background
Clinical practice guidelines are typically written for healthcare providers but there is increasing interest in producing versions for the public, patients and carers. The main objective of this review is to identify and synthesise evidence of the public’s attitudes towards clinical practice guidelines and evidence-based recommendations written for providers or the public, together with their awareness of guidelines.
Methods
We included quantitative and qualitative studies of any design reporting on public, patient (and their carers) attitudes and awareness of guidelines written for providers or patients/public. We searched electronic databases including MEDLINE, PSYCHINFO, ERIC, ASSIA and the Cochrane Library from 2000 to 2012. We also searched relevant websites, reviewed citations and contacted experts in the field. At least two authors independently screened, abstracted data and assessed the quality of studies. We conducted a thematic analysis of first and second order themes and performed a separate narrative synthesis of patient and public awareness of guidelines.
Results
We reviewed 5415 records and included 26 studies (10 qualitative studies, 13 cross sectional and 3 randomised controlled trials) involving 24 887 individuals. Studies were mostly good to fair quality. The thematic analysis resulted in four overarching themes: Applicability of guidelines; Purpose of guidelines for patient; Purpose of guidelines for health care system and physician; and Properties of guidelines. Overall, participants had mixed attitudes towards guidelines; some participants found them empowering but many saw them as a way of rationing care. Patients were also concerned that the information may not apply to their own health care situations. Awareness of guidelines ranged from 0-79%, with greater awareness in participants surveyed on national guideline websites.
Conclusion
There are many factors, not only formatting, that may affect the uptake and use of guideline-derived material by the public. Producers need to make clear how the information is relevant to the reader and how it can be used to make healthcare improvements although there were problems with data quality. Awareness of guidelines is generally low and guideline producers cannot assume that the public has a more positive perception of their material than of alternative sources of health information.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-321
PMCID: PMC4119247  PMID: 25064372
Clinical practice guidelines; Patient; Public; Attitudes; Awareness
24.  Rational Prescribing in Primary Care (RaPP): A Cluster Randomized Trial of a Tailored Intervention 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(6):e134.
Background
A gap exists between evidence and practice regarding the management of cardiovascular risk factors. This gap could be narrowed if systematically developed clinical practice guidelines were effectively implemented in clinical practice. We evaluated the effects of a tailored intervention to support the implementation of systematically developed guidelines for the use of antihypertensive and cholesterol-lowering drugs for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster-randomized trial comparing a tailored intervention to passive dissemination of guidelines in 146 general practices in two geographical areas in Norway. Each practice was randomized to either the tailored intervention (70 practices; 257 physicians) or control group (69 practices; 244 physicians). Patients started on medication for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia during the study period and all patients already on treatment that consulted their physician during the trial were included. A multifaceted intervention was tailored to address identified barriers to change. Key components were an educational outreach visit with audit and feedback, and computerized reminders linked to the medical record system. Pharmacists conducted the visits. Outcomes were measured for all eligible patients seen in the participating practices during 1 y before and after the intervention. The main outcomes were the proportions of (1) first-time prescriptions for hypertension where thiazides were prescribed, (2) patients assessed for cardiovascular risk before prescribing antihypertensive or cholesterol-lowering drugs, and (3) patients treated for hypertension or hypercholesterolemia for 3 mo or more who had achieved recommended treatment goals.
The intervention led to an increase in adherence to guideline recommendations on choice of antihypertensive drug. Thiazides were prescribed to 17% of patients in the intervention group versus 11% in the control group (relative risk 1.94; 95% confidence interval 1.49–2.49, adjusted for baseline differences and clustering effect). Little or no differences were found for risk assessment prior to prescribing and for achievement of treatment goals.
Conclusions
Our tailored intervention had a significant impact on prescribing of antihypertensive drugs, but was ineffective in improving the quality of other aspects of managing hypertension and hypercholesterolemia in primary care.
Editors' Summary
Background.
An important issue in health care is “getting research into practice,” in other words, making sure that, when evidence from research has established the best way to treat a disease, doctors actually use that approach with their patients. In reality, there is often a gap between evidence and practice.
  An example concerns the treatment of people who have high blood pressure (hypertension) and/or high cholesterol. These are common conditions, and both increase the risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. Research has shown that the risks can be lowered if patients with these conditions are given drugs that lower blood pressure (antihypertensives) and drugs that lower cholesterol. There are many types of these drugs now available. In many countries, the health authorities want family doctors (general practitioners) to make better use of these drugs. They want doctors to prescribe them to everyone who would benefit, using the type of drugs found to be most effective. When there is a choice of drugs that are equally effective, they want doctors to use the cheapest type. (In the case of antihypertensives, an older type, known as thiazides, is very effective and also very cheap, but many doctors prefer to give their patients newer, more expensive alternatives.) Health authorities have issued guidelines to doctors that address these issues. However, it is not easy to change prescribing practices, and research in several countries has shown that issuing guidelines has only limited effects.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted—in two parts of Norway—to compare the effects on prescribing practices of what they called the “passive dissemination of guidelines” with a more active approach, where the use of the guidelines was strongly promoted and encouraged.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They worked with 146 general practices. In half of them the guidelines were actively promoted. The remaining were regarded as a control group; they were given the guidelines but no special efforts were made to encourage their use. It was decided at random which practices would be in which group; this approach is called a randomized controlled trial. The methods used to actively promote use of the guidelines included personal visits to the practices by pharmacists and use of a computerized reminder system. Information was then collected on the number of patients who, when first treated for hypertension, were prescribed a thiazide. Other information collected included whether patients had been properly assessed for their level of risk (for strokes and heart attacks) before antihypertensive or cholesterol-lowering drugs were given. In addition, the researchers recorded whether the recommended targets for improvement in blood pressure and cholesterol level had been reached.
Only 11% of those patients visiting the control group of practices who should have been prescribed thiazides, according to the guidelines, actually received them. Of those seen by doctors in the practices where the guidelines were actively promoted, 17% received thiazides. According to statistical analysis, the increase achieved by active promotion is significant. Little or no differences were found for risk assessment prior to prescribing and for achievement of treatment goals.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Even in the active promotion group, the great majority of patients (83%) were still not receiving treatment according to the guidelines. However, active promotion of guidelines is more effective than simply issuing the guidelines by themselves. The study also demonstrates that it is very hard to change prescribing practices. The efforts made here to encourage the doctors to change were considerable, and although the results were significant, they were still disappointing. Also disappointing is the fact that achievement of treatment goals was no better in the active-promotion group. These issues are discussed further in a Perspective about this study (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0030229).
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030134.
• The Web site of the American Academy of Family Physicians has a page on heart disease
• The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia's pages on heart diseases and vascular diseases
• Information from NHS Direct (UK National Health Service) about heart attack and stroke
• Another PLoS Medicine article has also addressed trends in thiazide prescribing
Passive dissemination of management guidelines for hypertension and hypercholesterolaemia was compared with active promotion. Active promotion led to significant improvement in antihypertensive prescribing but not other aspects of management.
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030134
PMCID: PMC1472695  PMID: 16737346
25.  The Systematic Guideline Review: Method, rationale, and test on chronic heart failure 
Background
Evidence-based guidelines have the potential to improve healthcare. However, their de-novo-development requires substantial resources – especially for complex conditions, and adaptation may be biased by contextually influenced recommendations in source guidelines. In this paper we describe a new approach to guideline development – the systematic guideline review method (SGR), and its application in the development of an evidence-based guideline for family physicians on chronic heart failure (CHF).
Methods
A systematic search for guidelines was carried out. Evidence-based guidelines on CHF management in adults in ambulatory care published in English or German between the years 2000 and 2004 were included. Guidelines on acute or right heart failure were excluded. Eligibility was assessed by two reviewers, methodological quality of selected guidelines was appraised using the AGREE instrument, and a framework of relevant clinical questions for diagnostics and treatment was derived. Data were extracted into evidence tables, systematically compared by means of a consistency analysis and synthesized in a preliminary draft. Most relevant primary sources were re-assessed to verify the cited evidence. Evidence and recommendations were summarized in a draft guideline.
Results
Of 16 included guidelines five were of good quality. A total of 35 recommendations were systematically compared: 25/35 were consistent, 9/35 inconsistent, and 1/35 un-rateable (derived from a single guideline). Of the 25 consistencies, 14 were based on consensus, seven on evidence and four differed in grading. Major inconsistencies were found in 3/9 of the inconsistent recommendations. We re-evaluated the evidence for 17 recommendations (evidence-based, differing evidence levels and minor inconsistencies) – the majority was congruent. Incongruity was found where the stated evidence could not be verified in the cited primary sources, or where the evaluation in the source guidelines focused on treatment benefits and underestimated the risks. The draft guideline was completed in 8.5 man-months. The main limitation to this study was the lack of a second reviewer.
Conclusion
The systematic guideline review including framework development, consistency analysis and validation is an effective, valid, and resource saving-approach to the development of evidence-based guidelines.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-74
PMCID: PMC2698839  PMID: 19426504

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