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1.  Methods for Specifying the Target Difference in a Randomised Controlled Trial: The Difference ELicitation in TriAls (DELTA) Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(5):e1001645.
Jonathan Cook and colleagues systematically reviewed the literature for methods of determining the target difference for use in calculating the necessary sample size for clinical trials, and discuss which methods are best for various types of trials.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are widely accepted as the preferred study design for evaluating healthcare interventions. When the sample size is determined, a (target) difference is typically specified that the RCT is designed to detect. This provides reassurance that the study will be informative, i.e., should such a difference exist, it is likely to be detected with the required statistical precision. The aim of this review was to identify potential methods for specifying the target difference in an RCT sample size calculation.
Methods and Findings
A comprehensive systematic review of medical and non-medical literature was carried out for methods that could be used to specify the target difference for an RCT sample size calculation. The databases searched were MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, the Cochrane Methodology Register, PsycINFO, Science Citation Index, EconLit, the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), and Scopus (for in-press publications); the search period was from 1966 or the earliest date covered, to between November 2010 and January 2011. Additionally, textbooks addressing the methodology of clinical trials and International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH) tripartite guidelines for clinical trials were also consulted. A narrative synthesis of methods was produced. Studies that described a method that could be used for specifying an important and/or realistic difference were included. The search identified 11,485 potentially relevant articles from the databases searched. Of these, 1,434 were selected for full-text assessment, and a further nine were identified from other sources. Fifteen clinical trial textbooks and the ICH tripartite guidelines were also reviewed. In total, 777 studies were included, and within them, seven methods were identified—anchor, distribution, health economic, opinion-seeking, pilot study, review of the evidence base, and standardised effect size.
Conclusions
A variety of methods are available that researchers can use for specifying the target difference in an RCT sample size calculation. Appropriate methods may vary depending on the aim (e.g., specifying an important difference versus a realistic difference), context (e.g., research question and availability of data), and underlying framework adopted (e.g., Bayesian versus conventional statistical approach). Guidance on the use of each method is given. No single method provides a perfect solution for all contexts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
A clinical trial is a research study in which human volunteers are randomized to receive a given intervention or not, and outcomes are measured in both groups to determine the effect of the intervention. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are widely accepted as the preferred study design because by randomly assigning participants to groups, any differences between the two groups, other than the intervention under study, are due to chance. To conduct a RCT, investigators calculate how many patients they need to enroll to determine whether the intervention is effective. The number of patients they need to enroll depends on how effective the intervention is expected to be, or would need to be in order to be clinically important. The assumed difference between the two groups is the target difference. A larger target difference generally means that fewer patients need to be enrolled, relative to a smaller target difference. The target difference and number of patients enrolled contribute to the study's statistical precision, and the ability of the study to determine whether the intervention is effective. Selecting an appropriate target difference is important from both a scientific and ethical standpoint.
Why Was This Study Done?
There are several ways to determine an appropriate target difference. The authors wanted to determine what methods for specifying the target difference are available and when they can be used.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To identify studies that used a method for determining an important and/or realistic difference, the investigators systematically surveyed the research literature. Two reviewers screened each of the abstracts chosen, and a third reviewer was consulted if necessary. The authors identified seven methods to determine target differences. They evaluated the studies to establish similarities and differences of each application. Points about the strengths and limitations of the method and how frequently the method was chosen were also noted.
What Do these Findings Mean?
The study draws attention to an understudied but important part of designing a clinical trial. Enrolling the right number of patients is very important—too few patients and the study may not be able to answer the study question; too many and the study will be more expensive and more difficult to conduct, and will unnecessarily expose more patients to any study risks. The target difference may also be helpful in interpreting the results of the trial. The authors discuss the pros and cons of different ways to calculate target differences and which methods are best for which types of studies, to help inform researchers designing such studies.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001645.
Wikipedia has an entry on sample size determination that discusses the factors that influence sample size calculation, including the target difference and the statistical power of a study (statistical power is the ability of a study to find a difference between treatments when a true difference exists). (Note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages.)
The University of Ottawa has an article that explains how different factors influence the power of a study
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001645
PMCID: PMC4019477  PMID: 24824338
2.  The NAFKAM International Registry of Exceptional Courses of Disease Related to the Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine 
The increasing use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) represents a continuing demand for treatment approaches in parallel with, or as an alternative to, conventional healthcare delivery.1,2 Some patients report considerable health improvements related to their use of CAM,3–6 and others report no effect or possibly harm.7 Limited efforts have been made so far to systematically collect patients' personal experiences with various CAM therapies. Methods to collect “best cases” after the use of CAM in cancer patients have been initiated in the United States and Germany.5,8,9
doi:10.7453/gahmj.2012.1.1.012
PMCID: PMC3833485  PMID: 24278802
Norway; patient registry; NAFKAM; case reports; exceptional courses of disease; complementary and alternative medicine; CAM; medical assessments; safety
3.  Attitudes Toward Antiretroviral Therapy and Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Chinese HIV-Infected Patients 
HIV has become a significant health issue in China, and an increasing number of HIV-infected individuals are in need of care. Current reports confirm more than 230,000 cases of HIV infection and estimate that approximately 700,000 people are now infected with HIV, although approximately 70% of these individuals do not realize they are infected (Gill & Okie, 2007).
China's national antiretroviral therapy (ART) program, Four Frees and One Care, began in 2003, and ART treatment is now widely available in China (Zhang et al., 2007). Under this program, the following services are available to eligible citizens: (a) free ART for all AIDS patients in financial difficulty, (b) free schooling for AIDS orphans and children of AIDS patients, (c) free counseling and prevention measures to prevent mother-to-child-transmission for HIV-infected pregnant women, and (d) free HIV antibody testing and counseling, provided by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC). “One Care” means providing care to AIDS patients and their families (Zhang, Pan, Yu, Wen, & Zhao, 2005). Prior to 2003, only a few people in China had access to ART, and clinical expertise in HIV medicine was limited to the major centers in a few eastern cities (Zhang et al., 2007). When ART is the dominant method of treatment, however, its use is complicated by the presence of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), which has remained a substitute and supplement for conventional HIV therapy (Hsiao et al., 2003), even after ART became available (Josephs, Fleishman, Gaist, & Gebo, 2007).
CAM is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine (National Institutes of Health, 2008). Commonly, CAM includes a wide range of practices that do not fit within the dominant allopathic model of health care (Bishop, Yardley, & Lewith, 2007), including but not limited to herbalism, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture, and diet-based therapies (Bratman & Steven, 1997). TCM has been used in Chinese society for more than 5,000 years. In the TCM approach, the body is recognized and treated as a whole entity, and diseases are identified as conditions caused by internal imbalances. The role of doctors is to identify imbalances and then correct them; the body is then expected to be able to heal itself (Tsao, Dobalian, Myers, & Zeltzer, 2005). The balancing factors of the yin and yang, or of the cold and hot forces, govern health and modulate some Chinese eating and pain management practices (Wong-Kim & Merighi, 2007). The integration of ART and CAM therefore has important implications in health outcomes, especially in China where the use of CAM is widespread.
Three types of treatment systems are practiced in Chinese society: (a) allopathic Western medicine offered by health care professionals in clinics and hospitals; (b) Buyao, which is over-the-counter popular medicine and includes teas, soups, tablets, herbal preparations, and tonics, which are similar to herb supplements used in some Western countries; and (c) TCM or Zhongyi, provided by trained Chinese herbalists, which incorporates a wide range of theories, therapies, and practices, some of which are medicinal, some physical, and some supernatural (Ma et al., 2008). Many Chinese people use all three types of treatment simultaneously.
In the West, the use of CAM is widespread among HIV-infected individuals. From 1980 to 1996, 27% to 100% of HIV-infected patients used CAM (Ernst, 1997), and the rates of CAM remained steady when compared with the era before highly active ART (Josephs et al., 2007). Some people living with HIV (PLWH) used CAM to replace the prescribed ART treatment regimen (Owen-Smith, Diclemente, & Wingood, 2007), while others used it as a complement to conventional HIV therapy (Hsiao et al., 2003).
A variety of factors influence an individual's decision to use CAM. In Western countries, women who were more educated and who had lived longer with HIV were more likely to use CAM (Owen-Smith et al., 2007). Pain was a strong predictor of CAM use, and increased pain over time was associated with the use of unlicensed or illicit underground drugs that held a potential for harm (Tsao et al., 2005). Overall, the most common source of information about CAM was from patients' friends (Wiwanitkit, 2003). Generally, CAM users perceived complementary therapies as useful, although there is no evidence to suggest that these treatments are particularly effective. CAM is generally perceived as “safe,” despite evidence of harmful interactions between some herbal medicines and medical treatments and the evidence of associated risks (Ma et al., 2007). Specifically, recent studies have shown that herbal medicines can interact with ART in such a way as to contribute to treatment failure (Ma et al., 2007). Physicians around the world, however, do not routinely discuss CAM therapies with PLWH, despite knowing that CAM therapies are widely used (Ma et al., 2008; Hsiao et al., 2003).
Studies have examined PLWH attitudes toward ART and CAM in different countries (Littlewood & Vanable, 2008). One study described nurses in Uganda using a traditional, nurse-prepared ointment on PLWH as an alternative medication for skin problems because they “know it works” (Hardon et al., 2008). CAM has also been used to treat the psychological and physical effects of illness and the side effects of ART (Kaufman & Gregory, 2007). Studies show, however, that many PLWH do not report CAM use to their medical providers (Hsiao et al., 2003). To date, there has been little research on CAM use in the Chinese PLWH population.
This qualitative study explored issues related to positive and negative attitudes toward both ART and CAM in Chinese PLWH in Beijing, China. The study was part of a larger project examining behavioral interventions meant to enhance ART adherence in PLWH in China (Chen et al., 2007; Starks et al., 2008). Semi-structured, in-depth, interviews were used to explore PLWHA attitudes, experiences, and perceptions about ART and CAM.
doi:10.1016/j.jana.2008.12.004
PMCID: PMC2684986  PMID: 19427598
4.  Complementary and Alternative Medicine Modality Use and Beliefs Among African American Prostate Cancer Survivors 
Oncology nursing forum  2007;34(2):359-364.
Purpose/Objectives
To examine the cultural beliefs and attitudes of African American prostate cancer survivors regarding the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) modalities.
Research Approach
Mixed methods with primary emphasis on a phenomenology approach.
Setting
In-person interviews in participants’ homes and rural community facilities.
Participants
14 African American men diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer.
Methodologic Approach
Personal interviews using a semistructured interview guide.
Main Research Variables
Prostate cancer, CAM, African American men’s health, culture, herbs, prayer, spirituality, and trust.
Findings
All participants used prayer often; two men used meditation and herbal preparations. All men reported holding certain beliefs about different categories of CAM. Several men were skeptical of CAM modalities other than prayer. Four themes were revealed: importance of spiritual needs as a CAM modality to health, the value of education in relation to CAM, importance of trust in selected healthcare providers, and how men decide on what to believe about CAM modalities.
Conclusions
Prayer was a highly valued CAM modality among African American prostate cancer survivors as a way to cope with their disease. Medical treatment and trust in healthcare providers also were found to be important.
Interpretation
Most participants were skeptical of CAM modalities other than prayer. Participants expressed a strong belief in spirituality and religiosity in relationship to health and their prostate cancer. Participants’ trust in their healthcare providers was important. Healthcare providers must understand how African Americans decide what to believe about CAM modalities to improve their health. This research provided valuable information for future development of culturally sensitive communication and infrastructural improvements in the healthcare system.
doi:10.1188/07.ONF.359-364
PMCID: PMC3616188  PMID: 17573300
5.  The role of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in Germany – A focus group study of GPs 
Background
There has been a marked increase in the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in recent years worldwide. In Germany, apart from 'Heilpraktiker' (= state-licensed, non-medical CAM practitioners), some general practitioners (GPs) provide CAM in their practices. This paper aims to explore the attitudes of GPs about the role of CAM in Germany, in relation to the healthcare system, quality of care, medical education and research. Furthermore, experiences of GPs integrating CAM in their daily practice were explored.
Methods
Using a qualitative methodological approach 3 focus groups with a convenience sample of 17 GPs were conducted. The discussions were transcribed verbatim and analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Results
The majority of the participating GPs had integrated one or more CAM therapies into their every-day practice. Four key themes were identified based on the topics covered in the focus groups: the role of CAM within the German healthcare system, quality of care, education and research. Within the theme 'role of CAM within the healthcare system' there were five categories: integration of CAM, CAM in the Statutory Health Insurance, modernisation of the Statutory Health Insurance Act, individual healthcare services and 'Heilpraktiker'. Regarding quality of care there were two broad groups of GPs: those who thought patients would benefit from standardizing CAM and those who feared that quality control would interfere with the individual approach of CAM. The main issues identified relating to research and education were the need for the development of alternative research strategies and the low quality of existing CAM education respectively.
Conclusion
The majority of the participating GPs considered CAM as a reasonable complementary approach within primary care. The study increased our understanding of GPs attitudes about the role of CAM within the German healthcare system and the use of 'Heilpraktiker' as a competing CAM-provider. It seems to be a need for increased funding for research, better education and remuneration by the Statutory Health Insurance in order to improve access to 'Integrative medicine' in Germany.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-127
PMCID: PMC2442431  PMID: 18549476
6.  Conducting a critical interpretive synthesis of the literature on access to healthcare by vulnerable groups 
Background
Conventional systematic review techniques have limitations when the aim of a review is to construct a critical analysis of a complex body of literature. This article offers a reflexive account of an attempt to conduct an interpretive review of the literature on access to healthcare by vulnerable groups in the UK
Methods
This project involved the development and use of the method of Critical Interpretive Synthesis (CIS). This approach is sensitised to the processes of conventional systematic review methodology and draws on recent advances in methods for interpretive synthesis.
Results
Many analyses of equity of access have rested on measures of utilisation of health services, but these are problematic both methodologically and conceptually. A more useful means of understanding access is offered by the synthetic construct of candidacy. Candidacy describes how people's eligibility for healthcare is determined between themselves and health services. It is a continually negotiated property of individuals, subject to multiple influences arising both from people and their social contexts and from macro-level influences on allocation of resources and configuration of services. Health services are continually constituting and seeking to define the appropriate objects of medical attention and intervention, while at the same time people are engaged in constituting and defining what they understand to be the appropriate objects of medical attention and intervention. Access represents a dynamic interplay between these simultaneous, iterative and mutually reinforcing processes. By attending to how vulnerabilities arise in relation to candidacy, the phenomenon of access can be better understood, and more appropriate recommendations made for policy, practice and future research.
Discussion
By innovating with existing methods for interpretive synthesis, it was possible to produce not only new methods for conducting what we have termed critical interpretive synthesis, but also a new theoretical conceptualisation of access to healthcare. This theoretical account of access is distinct from models already extant in the literature, and is the result of combining diverse constructs and evidence into a coherent whole. Both the method and the model should be evaluated in other contexts.
doi:10.1186/1471-2288-6-35
PMCID: PMC1559637  PMID: 16872487
7.  Ultraviolet Phototherapy Management of Moderate-to-Severe Plaque Psoriasis 
Executive Summary
Objective
The purpose of this evidence based analysis was to determine the effectiveness and safety of ultraviolet phototherapy for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis.
Research Questions
The specific research questions for the evidence review were as follows:
What is the safety of ultraviolet phototherapy for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis?
What is the effectiveness of ultraviolet phototherapy for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis?
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Psoriasis is a common chronic, systemic inflammatory disease affecting the skin, nails and occasionally the joints and has a lifelong waning and waxing course. It has a worldwide occurrence with a prevalence of at least 2% of the general population, making it one of the most common systemic inflammatory diseases. The immune-mediated disease has several clinical presentations with the most common (85% - 90%) being plaque psoriasis.
Characteristic features of psoriasis include scaling, redness, and elevation of the skin. Patients with psoriasis may also present with a range of disabling symptoms such as pruritus (itching), pain, bleeding, or burning associated with plaque lesions and up to 30% are classified as having moderate-to-severe disease. Further, some psoriasis patients can be complex medical cases in which diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and hypertension are more likely to be present than in control populations and 10% also suffer from arthritis (psoriatic arthritis). The etiology of psoriasis is unknown but is thought to result from complex interactions between the environment and predisposing genes.
Management of psoriasis is related to the extent of the skin involvement, although its presence on the hands, feet, face or genitalia can present challenges. Moderate-to-severe psoriasis is managed by phototherapy and a range of systemic agents including traditional immunosuppressants such as methotrexate and cyclospsorin. Treatment with modern immunosuppressant agents known as biologicals, which more specifically target the immune defects of the disease, is usually reserved for patients with contraindications and those failing or unresponsive to treatments with traditional immunosuppressants or phototherapy.
Treatment plans are based on a long-term approach to managing the disease, patient’s expectations, individual responses and risk of complications. The treatment goals are several fold but primarily to:
1) improve physical signs and secondary psychological effects,
2) reduce inflammation and control skin shedding,
3) control physical signs as long as possible, and to
4) avoid factors that can aggravate the condition.
Approaches are generally individualized because of the variable presentation, quality of life implications, co-existent medical conditions, and triggering factors (e.g. stress, infections and medications). Individual responses and commitments to therapy also present possible limitations.
Phototherapy
Ultraviolet phototherapy units have been licensed since February 1993 as a class 2 device in Canada. Units are available as hand held devices, hand and foot devices, full-body panel, and booth styles for institutional and home use. Units are also available with a range of ultraviolet A, broad and narrow band ultraviolet B (BB-UVB and NB-UVB) lamps. After establishing appropriate ultraviolet doses, three-times weekly treatment schedules for 20 to 25 treatments are generally needed to control symptoms.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
The literature search strategy employed keywords and subject headings to capture the concepts of 1) phototherapy and 2) psoriasis. The search involved runs in the following databases: Ovid MEDLINE (1996 to March Week 3 2009), OVID MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE (1980 to 2009 Week 13), the Wiley Cochrane Library, and the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination/International Agency for Health Technology Assessment. Parallel search strategies were developed for the remaining databases. Search results were limited to human and English-language published between January 1999 and March 31, 2009. Search alerts were generated and reviewed for relevant literature up until May 31, 2009.
English language reports and human studies
Ultraviolet phototherapy interventions for plaque-type psoriasis
Reports involving efficacy and/or safety outcome studies
Original reports with defined study methodology
Standardized measurements on outcome events such as technical success, safety, effectiveness, durability, quality of life or patient satisfaction
Non-systematic reviews, letters, comments and editorials
Randomized trials involving side-to-side or half body comparisons
Randomized trials not involving ultraviolet phototherapy intervention for plaque-type psoriasis
Trials involving dosing studies, pilot feasibility studies or lacking control groups
Summary of Findings
A 2000 health technology evidence report on the overall management of psoriasis by The National Institute Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment Program of the UK was identified in the MAS evidence-based review. The report included 109 RCT studies published between 1966 and June 1999 involving four major treatment approaches – 51 on phototherapy, 32 on oral retinoids, 18 on cyclosporin and five on fumarates.. The absence of RCTs on methotrexate was noted as original studies with this agent had been performed prior to 1966.
Of the 51 RCT studies involving phototherapy, 22 involved UVA, 21 involved UVB, five involved both UVA and UVB and three involved natural light as a source of UV. The RCT studies included comparisons of treatment schedules, ultraviolet source, addition of adjuvant therapies, and comparisons between phototherapy and topical treatment schedules. Because of heterogeneity, no synthesis or meta-analysis could be performed. Overall, the reviewers concluded that the efficacy of only five therapies could be supported from the RCT-based evidence review: photochemotherapy or phototherapy, cyclosporin, systemic retinoids, combination topical vitamin D3 analogues (calcipotriol) and corticosteroids in combination with phototherapy and fumarates. Although there was no RCT evidence supporting methotrexate, it’s efficacy for psoriasis is well known and it continues to be a treatment mainstay.
The conclusion of the NIHR evidence review was that both photochemotherapy and phototherapy were effective treatments for clearing psoriasis, although their comparative effectiveness was unknown. Despite the conclusions on efficacy, a number of issues were identified in the evidence review and several areas for future research were discussed to address these limitations. Trials focusing on comparative effectiveness, either between ultraviolet sources or between classes of treatment such as methotrexate versus phototherapy, were recommended to refine treatment algorithms. The need for better assessment of cost-effectiveness of therapies to consider systemic drug costs and costs of surveillance, as well as drug efficacy, were also noted. Overall, the authors concluded that phototherapy and photochemotherapy had important roles in psoriasis management and were standard therapeutic options for psoriasis offered in dermatology practices.
The MAS evidence-based review focusing on the RCT trial evidence for ultraviolet phototherapy management of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis was performed as an update to the NIHR 2000 systemic review on treatments for severe psoriasis. In this review, an additional 26 RCT reports examining phototherapy or photochemotherapy for psoriasis were identified. Among the studies were two RCTs comparing ultraviolet wavelength sources, five RCTs comparing different forms of phototherapy, four RCTs combining phototherapy with prior spa saline bathing, nine RCTs combining phototherapy with topical agents, two RCTs combining phototherapy with the systemic immunosuppressive agents methotrexate or alefacept, one RCT comparing phototherapy with an additional light source (the excimer laser), and one comparing a combination therapy with phototherapy and psychological intervention involving simultaneous audiotape sessions on mindfulness and stress reduction. Two trials also examined the effect of treatment setting on effectiveness of phototherapy, one on inpatient versus outpatient therapy and one on outpatient clinic versus home-based phototherapy.
Conclusions
The conclusions of the MAS evidence-based review are outlined in Table ES1. In summary, phototherapy provides good control of clinical symptoms in the short term for patients with moderate-to-severe plaque-type psoriasis that have failed or are unresponsive to management with topical agents. However, many of the evidence gaps identified in the NIHR 2000 evidence review on psoriasis management persisted. In particular, the lack of evidence on the comparative effectiveness and/or cost-effectiveness between the major treatment options for moderate-to-severe psoriasis remained. The evidence on effectiveness and safety of longer term strategies for disease management has also not been addressed. Evidence for the safety, effectiveness, or cost-effectiveness of phototherapy delivered in various settings is emerging but is limited. In addition, because all available treatments for psoriasis – a disease with a high prevalence, chronicity, and cost – are palliative rather than curative, strategies for disease control and improvements in self-efficacy employed in other chronic disease management strategies should be investigated.
RCT Evidence for Ultraviolet Phototherapy Treatment of Moderate-To-Severe Plaque Psoriasis
Phototherapy is an effective treatment for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis
Narrow band PT is more effective than broad band PT for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis
Oral-PUVA has a greater clinical response, requires less treatments and has a greater cumulative UV irradiation dose than UVB to achieve treatment effects for moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis
Spa salt water baths prior to phototherapy did increase short term clinical response of moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis but did not decrease cumulative UV irradiation dose
Addition of topical agents (vitamin D3 calcipotriol) to NB-UVB did not increase mean clinical response or decrease treatments or cumulative UV irradiation dose
Methotrexate prior to NB-UVB in high need psoriasis patients did significantly increase clinical response, decrease number of treatment sessions and decrease cumulative UV irradiation dose
Phototherapy following alefacept did increase early clinical response in moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis
Effectiveness and safety of home NB-UVB phototherapy was not inferior to NB-UVB phototherapy provided in a clinic to patients with psoriasis referred for phototherapy. Treatment burden was lower and patient satisfaction was higher with home therapy and patients in both groups preferred future phototherapy treatments at home
Ontario Health System Considerations
A 2006 survey of ultraviolet phototherapy services in Canada identified 26 phototherapy clinics in Ontario for a population of over 12 million. At that time, there were 177 dermatologists and 50 geographic regions in which 28% (14/50) provided phototherapy services. The majority of the phototherapy services were reported to be located in densely populated areas; relatively few patients living in rural communities had access to these services. The inconvenience of multiple weekly visits for optimal phototherapy treatment effects poses additional burdens to those with travel difficulties related to health, job, or family-related responsibilities.
Physician OHIP billing for phototherapy services totaled 117,216 billings in 2007, representing approximately 1,800 patients in the province treated in private clinics. The number of patients treated in hospitals is difficult to estimate as physician costs are not billed directly to OHIP in this setting. Instead, phototherapy units and services provided in hospitals are funded by hospitals’ global budgets. Some hospitals in the province, however, have divested their phototherapy services, so the number of phototherapy clinics and their total capacity is currently unknown.
Technological advances have enabled changes in phototherapy treatment regimens from lengthy hospital inpatient stays to outpatient clinic visits and, more recently, to an at-home basis. When combined with a telemedicine follow-up, home phototherapy may provide an alternative strategy for improved access to service and follow-up care, particularly for those with geographic or mobility barriers. Safety and effectiveness have, however, so far been evaluated for only one phototherapy home-based delivery model. Alternate care models and settings could potentially increase service options and access, but the broader consequences of the varying cost structures and incentives that either increase or decrease phototherapy services are unknown.
Economic Analyses
The focus of the current economic analysis was to characterize the costs associated with the provision of NB-UVB phototherapy for plaque-type, moderate-to-severe psoriasis in different clinical settings, including home therapy. A literature review was conducted and no cost-effectiveness (cost-utility) economic analyses were published in this area.
Hospital, Clinic, and Home Costs of Phototherapy
Costs for NB-UVB phototherapy were based on consultations with equipment manufacturers and dermatologists. Device costs applicable to the provision of NB-UVB phototherapy in hospitals, private clinics and at a patient’s home were estimated. These costs included capital costs of purchasing NB-UVB devices (amortized over 15-20 years), maintenance costs of replacing equipment bulbs, physician costs of phototherapy treatment in private clinics ($7.85 per phototherapy treatment), and medication and laboratory costs associated with treatment of moderate-to-severe psoriasis.
NB-UVB phototherapy services provided in a hospital setting were paid for by hospitals directly. Phototherapy services in private clinic and home settings were paid for by the clinic and patient, respectively, except for physician services covered by OHIP. Indirect funding was provided to hospitals as part of global budgeting and resource allocation. Home therapy services for NB-UVB phototherapy were not covered by the MOHLTC. Coverage for home-based phototherapy however, was in some cases provided by third party insurers.
Device costs for NB-UVB phototherapy were estimated for two types of phototherapy units: a “booth unit” consisting of 48 bulbs used in hospitals and clinics, and a “panel unit” consisting of 10 bulbs for home use. The device costs of the booth and panel units were estimated at approximately $18,600 and $2,900, respectively; simple amortization over 15 and 20 years implied yearly costs of approximately $2,500 and $150, respectively. Replacement cost for individual bulbs was about $120 resulting in total annual cost of maintenance of about $8,640 and $120 for booth and panel units, respectively.
Estimated Total Costs for Ontario
Average annual cost per patient for NB-UVB phototherapy provided in the hospital, private clinic or at home was estimated to be $292, $810 and $365 respectively. For comparison purposes, treatment of moderate-to-severe psoriasis with methotrexate and cyclosporin amounted to $712 and $3,407 annually per patient respectively; yearly costs for biological drugs were estimated to be $18,700 for alefacept and $20,300 for etanercept-based treatments.
Total annual costs of NB-UVB phototherapy were estimated by applying average costs to an estimated proportion of the population (age 18 or older) eligible for phototherapy treatment. The prevalence of psoriasis was estimated to be approximately 2% of the population, of which about 85% was of plaque-type psoriasis and approximately 20% to 30% was considered moderate-to-severe in disease severity. An estimate of 25% for moderate-to-severe psoriasis cases was used in the current economic analysis resulting in a range of 29,400 to 44,200 cases. Approximately 21% of these patients were estimated to be using NB-UVB phototherapy for treatment resulting in a number of cases in the range between 6,200 and 9,300 cases. The average (7,700) number of cases was used to calculate associated costs for Ontario by treatment setting.
Total annual costs were as follows: $2.3 million in a hospital setting, $6.3 million in a private clinic setting, and $2.8 million for home phototherapy. Costs for phototherapy services provided in private clinics were greater ($810 per patient annually; total of $6.3 million annually) and differed from the same services provided in the hospital setting only in terms of additional physician costs associated with phototherapy OHIP fees.
Keywords
Psoriasis, ultraviolet radiation, phototherapy, photochemotherapy, NB-UVB, BB-UVB PUVA
PMCID: PMC3377497  PMID: 23074532
8.  Methodological reflections on the evaluation of the implementation and adoption of national electronic health record systems 
Introduction/purpose of presentation
Far-reaching policy commitments to information technology-centered transformations of healthcare systems have now been made in many countries. There is as yet little empirical evidence to justify such decisions, hence the need for rigorous independent evaluation of current implementation efforts. Such evaluations however pose a number of important challenges. This presentation has been designed as a part of a Panel based on our experience of evaluating the National Health Service’s (NHS) implementation of electronic health records (EHR) systems in hospitals throughout England. We discuss the methodological challenges encountered in planning and undertaking an evaluation of a program of this scale and reflect on why and how we adapted our evaluation approach—both conceptually and methodologically—in response to these challenges.
Study design/population studied
Critical reflections on a multi-disciplinary and multi-facet independent evaluation of a national program to implement electronic health record systems into 12 ‘early wave’ NHS hospitals in England.
Findings
Our initial plan was to employ a mixed methods longitudinal ‘before-during-after’ study design. We however found this unsustainable in the light of fluxes in policy, contractual issues and over-optimistic schedules for EHR deployments. More importantly, this research design failed adequately to address the core of multi-faceted evolving EHRs as understood by key stakeholders and as worked out in their distinct work settings. Thus conventional outcomes-centric evaluations may not easily scale-up when evaluating transformational programs and may indeed prove misleading. New assumptions concerning the implementation process of EHR need to be developed that recognize the constantly changing milieu of policy, product, projects and professions that are inherent to such national implementations. The approaches we subsequently developed substitute the positivist view that EHR initiatives are self-evident and self-contained interventions, which are amenable to traditional quantitative evaluations, to one that focuses on how they are understood by various stakeholders and made to work in specific contexts. These assumptions recast the role of evaluation towards an approach that explores and interprets processes of socio-technical change that surround EHR implementation and adoption as seen by multiple stakeholders.
Conclusions and policy implications
There is likely to be an increase in politically-driven national programs of reform of healthcare based on information and communication technologies. Programs on such a scale are inherently complex with extended temporalities and extensive and dynamic sets of stakeholders. They are, in short, different and pose new evaluation challenges that previously formulated evaluation methods for health information systems cannot easily address. This calls for methodological innovation amongst research teams and their supporting bodies. We argue that evaluation of such system-wide transformation programs are likely to demand both breadth and depth of experience within a multidisciplinary research team, constant questioning of what is and what can be evaluated and how, and a particular way of working that emphasizes continuous dialogue and reflexivity. Making this transition is essential to enable evaluations that can usefully inform policy-making. Health policy experts urgently need to reassess the evaluation strategies they employ as they come to address national policies for system-wide transformation based on new electronic health infrastructures.
PMCID: PMC3571157
electronic health record; evaluation; methodology; socio-technical changing
9.  Comparative Performance of Private and Public Healthcare Systems in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001244.
A systematic review conducted by Sanjay Basu and colleagues reevaluates the evidence relating to comparative performance of public versus private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Introduction
Private sector healthcare delivery in low- and middle-income countries is sometimes argued to be more efficient, accountable, and sustainable than public sector delivery. Conversely, the public sector is often regarded as providing more equitable and evidence-based care. We performed a systematic review of research studies investigating the performance of private and public sector delivery in low- and middle-income countries.
Methods and Findings
Peer-reviewed studies including case studies, meta-analyses, reviews, and case-control analyses, as well as reports published by non-governmental organizations and international agencies, were systematically collected through large database searches, filtered through methodological inclusion criteria, and organized into six World Health Organization health system themes: accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency. Of 1,178 potentially relevant unique citations, data were obtained from 102 articles describing studies conducted in low- and middle-income countries. Comparative cohort and cross-sectional studies suggested that providers in the private sector more frequently violated medical standards of practice and had poorer patient outcomes, but had greater reported timeliness and hospitality to patients. Reported efficiency tended to be lower in the private than in the public sector, resulting in part from perverse incentives for unnecessary testing and treatment. Public sector services experienced more limited availability of equipment, medications, and trained healthcare workers. When the definition of “private sector” included unlicensed and uncertified providers such as drug shop owners, most patients appeared to access care in the private sector; however, when unlicensed healthcare providers were excluded from the analysis, the majority of people accessed public sector care. “Competitive dynamics” for funding appeared between the two sectors, such that public funds and personnel were redirected to private sector development, followed by reductions in public sector service budgets and staff.
Conclusions
Studies evaluated in this systematic review do not support the claim that the private sector is usually more efficient, accountable, or medically effective than the public sector; however, the public sector appears frequently to lack timeliness and hospitality towards patients.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Health care can be provided through public and private providers. Public health care is usually provided by the government through national healthcare systems. Private health care can be provided through “for profit” hospitals and self-employed practitioners, and “not for profit” non-government providers, including faith-based organizations.
There is considerable ideological debate around whether low- and middle-income countries should strengthen public versus private healthcare services, but in reality, most low- and middle-income countries use both types of healthcare provision. Recently, as the global economic recession has put major constraints on government budgets—the major funding source for healthcare expenditures in most countries—disputes between the proponents of private and public systems have escalated, further fuelled by the recommendation of International Monetary Fund (an international finance institution) that countries increase the scope of private sector provision in health care as part of loan conditions to reduce government debt. However, critics of the private health sector believe that public healthcare provision is of most benefit to poor people and is the only way to achieve universal and equitable access to health care.
Why Was This Study Done?
Both sides of the public versus private healthcare debate draw on selected case reports to defend their viewpoints, but there is a widely held view that the private health system is more efficient than the public health system. Therefore, in order to inform policy, there is an urgent need for robust evidence to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of the health care provided through both systems. In this study, the authors reviewed all of the evidence in a systematic way to evaluate available data on public and private sector performance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used eight databases and a comprehensive key word search to identify and review appropriate published data and studies of private and public sector performance in low- and middle-income countries. They assessed selected studies against the World Health Organization's six essential themes of health systems—accessibility and responsiveness; quality; outcomes; accountability, transparency, and regulation; fairness and equity; and efficiency—and conducted a narrative review of each theme.
Out of the 102 relevant studies included in their comparative analysis, 59 studies were research studies and 13 involved meta-analysis, with the rest involving case reports or reviews. The researchers found that study findings varied considerably across countries studied (one-third of studies were conducted in Africa and a third in Southeast Asia) and by the methods used.
Financial barriers to care (such as user fees) were reported for both public and private systems. Although studies report that patients in the private sector experience better timeliness and hospitality, studies suggest that providers in the private sector more frequently violate accepted medical standards and have lower reported efficiency.
What Do These Findings Mean?
This systematic review did not support previous views that private sector delivery of health care in low- and middle-income settings is more efficient, accountable, or effective than public sector delivery. Each system has its strengths and weaknesses, but importantly, in both sectors, there were financial barriers to care, and each had poor accountability and transparency. This systematic review highlights a limited and poor-quality evidence base regarding the comparative performance of the two systems.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244.
A previous PLoS Medicine study examined the outpatient care provided by the public and private sector in low-income countries
The WHO website provides more information on healthcare systems
The World Bank website provides information on health system financing
Oxfam provides an argument against increased private health care in poor countries
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001244
PMCID: PMC3378609  PMID: 22723748
10.  Factors Affecting the Delivery, Access, and Use of Interventions to Prevent Malaria in Pregnancy in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001488.
Jenny Hill and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies to explore the factors that affect the delivery, access, and use of interventions to prevent malaria in pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Malaria in pregnancy has important consequences for mother and baby. Coverage with the World Health Organization–recommended prevention strategy for pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) and insecticide-treated nets (ITNs) is low. We conducted a systematic review to explore factors affecting delivery, access, and use of IPTp and ITNs among healthcare providers and women.
Methods and Results
We searched the Malaria in Pregnancy Library and Global Health Database from 1 January 1990 to 23 April 2013, without language restriction. Data extraction was performed by two investigators independently, and data was appraised for quality and content. Data on barriers and facilitators, and the effect of interventions, were explored using content analysis and narrative synthesis. We conducted a meta-analysis of determinants of IPTp and ITN uptake using random effects models, and performed subgroup analysis to evaluate consistency across interventions and study populations, countries, and enrolment sites. We did not perform a meta-ethnography of qualitative data.
Ninety-eight articles were included, of which 20 were intervention studies. Key barriers to the provision of IPTp and ITNs were unclear policy and guidance on IPTp; general healthcare system issues, such as stockouts and user fees; health facility issues stemming from poor organisation, leading to poor quality of care; poor healthcare provider performance, including confusion over the timing of each IPTp dose; and women's poor antenatal attendance, affecting IPTp uptake. Key determinants of IPTp coverage were education, knowledge about malaria/IPTp, socio-economic status, parity, and number and timing of antenatal clinic visits. Key determinants of ITN coverage were employment status, education, knowledge about malaria/ITNs, age, and marital status. Predictors showed regional variations.
Conclusions
Delivery of ITNs through antenatal clinics presents fewer problems than delivery of IPTp. Many obstacles to IPTp delivery are relatively simple barriers that could be resolved in the short term. Other barriers are more entrenched within the overall healthcare system or socio-economic/cultural contexts, and will require medium- to long-term strategies.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Half the world's population is at risk of malaria, a mosquito-borne parasite that kills a million people every year. Most of these deaths occur among young children in sub-Saharan Africa, but pregnant women and their unborn babies are also vulnerable to malaria. Infection with malaria during pregnancy can cause maternal death, severe maternal anemia, miscarriages, and pre-term and low-birth-weight babies. Malaria in pregnancy is responsible for about 100,000 babies and 10,000 women dying every year but is preventable by simple, inexpensive interventions that have been available for many years. The World Health Organization recommends a three-pronged approach to the prevention of malaria in pregnancy in areas with stable malaria transmission in Africa—delivery of the antimalarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine to pregnant women during antenatal clinic visits (intermittent preventative treatment in pregnancy; IPTp), the use of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs) to protect pregnant women from the bites of infected mosquitoes, and effective diagnosis and case management of pregnant women with malarial illness.
Why Was This Study Done?
Coverage with this prevention strategy is currently very low. Recent survey data from sub-Saharan African countries suggest that only about a quarter of pregnant women receive two doses of IPTp and only about a third use ITNs. To improve coverage, public health experts need to understand why coverage is so low, and they need to know the factors (determinants) that are associated with the uptake of IPTp and ITNs. In this systematic review and meta-analysis of qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods studies, the researchers explore the factors that affect delivery, access, and use of IPTp and ITNs among pregnant women in sub-Saharan Africa. A systematic review uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic. Meta-analysis is a statistical method for combining the results of several studies. Qualitative studies collect non-quantitative data such as reasons for not accepting an intervention, whereas quantitative studies collect numerical data such as the proportion of a population accepting an intervention.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers' search of the Malaria in Pregnancy Library (a resource maintained by the Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium) and the Global Health Database identified 98 studies that provided data on barriers to and determinants of IPTp and ITN uptake and/or data on interventions designed to increase IPTp and ITN uptake. The researchers explored these data using content analysis (a research methodology that examines words and phrases within texts) and narrative synthesis (a method for summarizing results drawn from several qualitative studies). Key barriers to the provision and uptake of IPTp and ITNs included unclear policy and guidance on IPTp, general healthcare system issues such as drug shortages, healthcare facility issues such as unavailability of water for the provision of IPTp by directly observed therapy, poor healthcare provider performance such as confusion about the timing of IPTp doses, and the delayed antenatal care-seeking practices of pregnant women. The researchers' meta-analysis identified education, knowledge about malaria, socio-economic status, number and timing of antenatal clinic visits, and number of pregnancies as key determinants of IPTp uptake, and employment status, education, knowledge, age, and marital status as key determinants of coverage of ITN use. So, for example, highly educated women were more likely to receive IPTp or ITNs than poorly educated women.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings identify key interacting barriers to access, delivery, and use of IPTp and ITNs in sub-Saharan Africa and show that these barriers are relatively consistent across countries. Moreover, they suggest that there are fewer barriers to the delivery of ITNs through antenatal clinics than to the delivery of IPTp. Importantly, some of the barriers to IPTp uptake can be resolved in the short term (for example, simplification of country policies and guidance on IPTp might increase its uptake), but barriers to uptake that are entrenched within the overall healthcare system will only be resolved with medium- to long-term strategies that aim to improve the quality of antenatal services and to encourage antenatal clinic use among women. Overall, this analysis provides a checklist of factors that policy-makers involved in national malaria programs may be able to use to help them decide which interventions to prioritize. However, the researchers warn, multi-country studies are nevertheless urgently needed to evaluate targeted or multifaceted interventions designed to increase delivery and uptake of IPTp and ITNs, to reduce the adverse consequences of malaria in pregnancy.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001488.
Information is available from the World Health Organization on malaria (in several languages) and on IPTp; the World Malaria Report 2012 provides details of the current global malaria situation
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on malaria and on IPTp; a personal story about malaria in pregnancy is available
Information is available from the Roll Back Malaria Partnership on all aspects of global malaria control, including information on malaria in pregnancy
The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium is undertaking research into the prevention and treatment of malaria in pregnancy
MedlinePlus provides links to additional information on malaria (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001488
PMCID: PMC3720261  PMID: 23935459
11.  A Comparison of Cost Effectiveness Using Data from Randomized Trials or Actual Clinical Practice: Selective Cox-2 Inhibitors as an Example 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(12):e1000194.
Tjeerd-Pieter van Staa and colleagues estimate the likely cost effectiveness of selective Cox-2 inhibitors prescribed during routine clinical practice, as compared to the cost effectiveness predicted from randomized controlled trial data.
Background
Data on absolute risks of outcomes and patterns of drug use in cost-effectiveness analyses are often based on randomised clinical trials (RCTs). The objective of this study was to evaluate the external validity of published cost-effectiveness studies by comparing the data used in these studies (typically based on RCTs) to observational data from actual clinical practice. Selective Cox-2 inhibitors (coxibs) were used as an example.
Methods and Findings
The UK General Practice Research Database (GPRD) was used to estimate the exposure characteristics and individual probabilities of upper gastrointestinal (GI) events during current exposure to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or coxibs. A basic cost-effectiveness model was developed evaluating two alternative strategies: prescription of a conventional NSAID or coxib. Outcomes included upper GI events as recorded in GPRD and hospitalisation for upper GI events recorded in the national registry of hospitalisations (Hospital Episode Statistics) linked to GPRD. Prescription costs were based on the prescribed number of tables as recorded in GPRD and the 2006 cost data from the British National Formulary. The study population included over 1 million patients prescribed conventional NSAIDs or coxibs. Only a minority of patients used the drugs long-term and daily (34.5% of conventional NSAIDs and 44.2% of coxibs), whereas coxib RCTs required daily use for at least 6–9 months. The mean cost of preventing one upper GI event as recorded in GPRD was US$104k (ranging from US$64k with long-term daily use to US$182k with intermittent use) and US$298k for hospitalizations. The mean costs (for GPRD events) over calendar time were US$58k during 1990–1993 and US$174k during 2002–2005. Using RCT data rather than GPRD data for event probabilities, the mean cost was US$16k with the VIGOR RCT and US$20k with the CLASS RCT.
Conclusions
The published cost-effectiveness analyses of coxibs lacked external validity, did not represent patients in actual clinical practice, and should not have been used to inform prescribing policies. External validity should be an explicit requirement for cost-effectiveness analyses.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Before a new treatment for a specific disease becomes an established part of clinical practice, it goes through a long process of development and clinical testing. This process starts with extensive studies of the new treatment in the laboratory and in animals and then moves into clinical trials. The most important of these trials are randomized controlled trials (RCTs), studies in which the efficacy and safety of the new drug and an established drug are compared by giving the two drugs to randomized groups of patients with the disease. The final hurdle that a drug or any other healthcare technology often has to jump before being adopted for widespread clinical use is a health technology assessment, which aims to provide policymakers, clinicians, and patients with information about the balance between the clinical and financial costs of the drug and its benefits (its cost-effectiveness). In England and Wales, for example, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which promotes clinical excellence and the effective use of resources within the National Health Service, routinely commissions such assessments.
Why Was This Study Done?
Data on the risks of various outcomes associated with a new treatment are needed for cost-effectiveness analyses. These data are usually obtained from RCTs, but although RCTs are the best way of determining a drug's potency in experienced hands under ideal conditions (its efficacy), they may not be a good way to determine a drug's success in an average clinical setting (its effectiveness). In this study, the researchers compare the data from RCTs that have been used in several published cost-effectiveness analyses of a class of drugs called selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors (“coxibs”) with observational data from actual clinical practice. They then ask whether the published cost-effectiveness studies, which generally used RCT data, should have been used to inform coxib prescribing policies. Coxibs are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) that were developed in the 1990s to treat arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions. Conventional NSAIDs can cause gastric ulcers and bleeding from the gut (upper gastrointestinal events) if taken for a long time. The use of coxibs avoids this problem.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers extracted data on the real-life use of conventional NSAIDs and coxibs and on the incidence of upper gastrointestinal events from the UK General Practice Research Database (GPRD) and from the national registry of hospitalizations. Only a minority of the million patients who were prescribed conventional NSAIDs (average cost per prescription US$17.80) or coxibs (average cost per prescription US$47.04) for a variety of inflammatory conditions took them on a long-term daily basis, whereas in the RCTs of coxibs, patients with a few carefully defined conditions took NSAIDs daily for at least 6–9 months. The researchers then developed a cost-effectiveness model to evaluate the costs of the alternative strategies of prescribing a conventional NSAID or a coxib. The mean additional cost of preventing one gastrointestinal event recorded in the GPRD by using a coxib instead of a NSAID, they report, was US$104,000; the mean cost of preventing one hospitalization for such an event was US$298,000. By contrast, the mean cost of preventing one gastrointestinal event by using a coxib instead of a NSAID calculated from data obtained in RCTs was about US$20,000.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the published cost-effectiveness analyses of coxibs greatly underestimate the cost of preventing gastrointestinal events by replacing prescriptions of conventional NSAIDs with prescriptions of coxibs. That is, if data from actual clinical practice had been used in cost-effectiveness analyses rather than data from RCTs, the conclusions of the published cost-effectiveness analyses of coxibs would have been radically different and may have led to different prescribing guidelines for this class of drug. More generally, these findings provide a good illustration of how important it is to ensure that cost-effectiveness analyses have “external” validity by using realistic estimates for event rates and costs rather than relying on data from RCTs that do not always reflect the real-world situation. The researchers suggest, therefore, that health technology assessments should move from evaluating cost-efficacy in ideal populations with ideal interventions to evaluating cost-effectiveness in real populations with real interventions.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000194.
The UK National Institute for Health Research provides information about health technology assessment
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence Web site describes how this organization provides guidance on promoting good health within the England and Wales National Health Service
Information on the UK General Practice Research Database is available
Wikipedia has pages on health technology assessment and on selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000194
PMCID: PMC2779340  PMID: 19997499
12.  Missing signposts on the roadmap to quality: a call to improve medication adherence indicators in data collection for population research 
Purpose: Poor adherence to prescribed medicines is associated with increased rates of poor outcomes, including hospitalization, serious adverse events, and death, and is also associated with increased healthcare costs. However, current approaches to evaluation of medication adherence using real-world electronic health records (EHRs) or claims data may miss critical opportunities for data capture and fall short in modeling and representing the full complexity of the healthcare environment. We sought to explore a framework for understanding and improving data capture for medication adherence in a population-based intervention in four U.S. counties.
Approach: We posited that application of a data model and a process matrix when designing data collection for medication adherence would improve identification of variables and data accessibility, and could support future research on medication-taking behaviors. We then constructed a use case in which data related to medication adherence would be leveraged to support improved healthcare quality, clinical outcomes, and efficiency of healthcare delivery in a population-based intervention for persons with diabetes. Because EHRs in use at participating sites were deemed incapable of supplying the needed data, we applied a taxonomic approach to identify and define variables of interest. We then applied a process matrix methodology, in which we identified key research goals and chose optimal data domains and their respective data elements, to instantiate the resulting data model.
Conclusions: Combining a taxonomic approach with a process matrix methodology may afford significant benefits when designing data collection for clinical and population-based research in the arena of medication adherence. Such an approach can effectively depict complex real-world concepts and domains by “mapping” the relationships between disparate contributors to medication adherence and describing their relative contributions to the shared goals of improved healthcare quality, outcomes, and cost.
doi:10.3389/fphar.2013.00139
PMCID: PMC3819628  PMID: 24223556
medication adherence; data model; process matrix; taxonomy; health behavior; self-management; secondary use; cardiometabolic
13.  How and why are communities of practice established in the healthcare sector? A systematic review of the literature 
Background
Communities of Practice (CoPs) are promoted in the healthcare sector as a means of generating and sharing knowledge and improving organisational performance. However CoPs vary considerably in the way they are structured and operate in the sector. If CoPs are to be cultivated to benefit healthcare organisations, there is a need to examine and understand their application to date. To this end, a systematic review of the literature on CoPs was conducted, to examine how and why CoPs have been established and whether they have been shown to improve healthcare practice.
Methods
Peer-reviewed empirical research papers on CoPs in the healthcare sector were identified by searching electronic health-databases. Information on the purpose of establishing CoPs, their composition, methods by which members communicate and share information or knowledge, and research methods used to examine effectiveness was extracted and reviewed. Also examined was evidence of whether or not CoPs led to a change in healthcare practice.
Results
Thirty-one primary research papers and two systematic reviews were identified and reviewed in detail. There was a trend from descriptive to evaluative research. The focus of CoPs in earlier publications was on learning and exchanging information and knowledge, whereas in more recently published research, CoPs were used more as a tool to improve clinical practice and to facilitate the implementation of evidence-based practice. Means by which members communicated with each other varied, but in none of the primary research studies was the method of communication examined in terms of the CoP achieving its objectives. Researchers are increasing their efforts to assess the effectiveness of CoPs in healthcare, however the interventions have been complex and multifaceted, making it difficult to directly attribute the change to the CoP.
Conclusions
In keeping with Wenger and colleagues' description, CoPs in the healthcare sector vary in form and purpose. While researchers are increasing their efforts to examine the impact of CoPs in healthcare, cultivating CoPs to improve healthcare performance requires a greater understanding of how to establish and support CoPs to maximise their potential to improve healthcare.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-273
PMCID: PMC3219728  PMID: 21999305
14.  Behavioural Interventions for Type 2 Diabetes 
Executive Summary
In June 2008, the Medical Advisory Secretariat began work on the Diabetes Strategy Evidence Project, an evidence-based review of the literature surrounding strategies for successful management and treatment of diabetes. This project came about when the Health System Strategy Division at the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care subsequently asked the secretariat to provide an evidentiary platform for the Ministry’s newly released Diabetes Strategy.
After an initial review of the strategy and consultation with experts, the secretariat identified five key areas in which evidence was needed. Evidence-based analyses have been prepared for each of these five areas: insulin pumps, behavioural interventions, bariatric surgery, home telemonitoring, and community based care. For each area, an economic analysis was completed where appropriate and is described in a separate report.
To review these titles within the Diabetes Strategy Evidence series, please visit the Medical Advisory Secretariat Web site, http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/mas/mas_about.html,
Diabetes Strategy Evidence Platform: Summary of Evidence-Based Analyses
Continuous Subcutaneous Insulin Infusion Pumps for Type 1 and Type 2 Adult Diabetics: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Behavioural Interventions for Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Bariatric Surgery for People with Diabetes and Morbid Obesity: An Evidence-Based Summary
Community-Based Care for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Home Telemonitoring for Type 2 Diabetes: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Application of the Ontario Diabetes Economic Model (ODEM) to Determine the Cost-effectiveness and Budget Impact of Selected Type 2 Diabetes Interventions in Ontario
Objective
The objective of this report is to determine whether behavioural interventions1 are effective in improving glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes.
Background
Diabetes is a serious chronic condition affecting millions of people worldwide and is the sixth leading cause of death in Canada. In 2005, an estimated 8.8% of Ontario’s population had diabetes, representing more than 816,000 Ontarians. The direct health care cost of diabetes was $1.76 billion in the year 2000 and is projected to rise to a total cost of $3.14 billion by 2016. Much of this cost arises from the serious long-term complications associated with the disease including: coronary heart disease, stroke, adult blindness, limb amputations and kidney disease.
Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90–95% of diabetes and while type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in people aged 40 years and older, prevalence in younger populations is increasing due to a rise in obesity and physical inactivity in children.
Data from the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) has shown that tight glycemic control can significantly reduce the risk of developing serious complications in type 2 diabetics. Despite physicians’ and patients’ knowledge of the importance of glycemic control, Canadian data has shown that only 38% of patients with diabetes have HbA1C levels in the optimal range of 7% or less. This statistic highlights the complexities involved in the management of diabetes, which is characterized by extensive patient involvement in addition to the support provided by physicians. An enormous demand is, therefore, placed on patients to self-manage the physical, emotional and psychological aspects of living with a chronic illness.
Despite differences in individual needs to cope with diabetes, there is general agreement for the necessity of supportive programs for patient self-management. While traditional programs were didactic models with the goal of improving patients’ knowledge of their disease, current models focus on behavioural approaches aimed at providing patients with the skills and strategies required to promote and change their behaviour.
Several meta-analyses and systematic reviews have demonstrated improved health outcomes with self-management support programs in type 2 diabetics. They have all, however, either looked at a specific component of self-management support programs (i.e. self-management education) or have been conducted in specific populations. Most reviews are also qualitative and do not clearly define the interventions of interest, making findings difficult to interpret. Moreover, heterogeneity in the interventions has led to conflicting evidence on the components of effective programs. There is thus much uncertainty regarding the optimal design and delivery of these programs by policymakers.
Evidence-Based Analysis of Effectiveness
Research Questions
Are behavioural interventions effective in improving glycemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes?
Is the effectiveness of the intervention impacted by intervention characteristics (e.g. delivery of intervention, length of intervention, mode of instruction, interventionist etc.)?
Inclusion Criteria
English Language
Published between January 1996 to August 2008
Type 2 diabetic adult population (>18 years)
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs)
Systematic reviews, or meta-analyses
Describing a multi-faceted self-management support intervention as defined by the 2007 Self-Management Mapping Guide (1)
Reporting outcomes of glycemic control (HbA1c) with extractable data
Studies with a minimum of 6-month follow up
Exclusion Criteria
Studies with a control group other than usual care
Studies with a sample size <30
Studies without a clearly defined intervention
Outcomes of Interest
Primary outcome: glycemic control (HbA1c)
Secondary outcomes: systolic blood pressure (SBP) control, lipid control, change in smoking status, weight change, quality of life, knowledge, self-efficacy, managing psychosocial aspects of diabetes, assessing dissatisfaction and readiness to change, and setting and achieving diabetes goals.
Search Strategy
A search was performed in OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), The Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published between January 1996 and August 2008. Abstracts were reviewed by a single author and studies meeting the inclusion criteria outlined above were obtained. Data on population characteristics, glycemic control outcomes, and study design were extracted. Reference lists were also checked for relevant studies. The quality of the evidence was assessed as being either high, moderate, low, or very low according to the GRADE methodology.
Summary of Findings
The search identified 638 citations published between 1996 and August 2008, of which 12 met the inclusion criteria and one was a meta-analysis (Gary et al. 2003). The remaining 11 studies were RCTs (9 were used in the meta-analysis) and only one was defined as small (total sample size N=47).
Summary of Participant Demographics across studies
A total of 2,549 participants were included in the 11 identified studies. The mean age of participants reported was approximately 58 years and the mean duration of diabetes was approximately 6 years. Most studies reported gender with a mean percentage of females of approximately 67%. Of the eleven studies, two focused only on women and four included only Hispanic individuals. All studies evaluated type 2 diabetes patients exclusively.
Study Characteristics
The studies were conducted between 2002 and 2008. Approximately six of 11 studies were carried out within the USA, with the remaining studies conducted in the UK, Sweden, and Israel (sample size ranged from 47 to 824 participants). The quality of the studies ranged from moderate to low with four of the studies being of moderate quality and the remaining seven of low quality (based on the Consort Checklist). Differences in quality were mainly due to methodological issues such as inadequate description of randomization, sample size calculation allocation concealment, blinding and uncertainty of the use of intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis. Patients were recruited from several settings: six studies from primary or general medical practices, three studies from the community (e.g. via advertisements), and two from outpatient diabetes clinics. A usual care control group was reported in nine of 11 of the studies and two studies reported some type of minimal diabetes care in addition to usual care for the control group.
Intervention Characteristics
All of the interventions examined in the studies were mapped to the 2007 Self-management Mapping Guide. The interventions most often focused on problem solving, goal setting and encouraging participants to engage in activities that protect and promote health (e.g. modifying behaviour, change in diet, and increase physical activity). All of the studies examined comprehensive interventions targeted at least two self-care topics (e.g. diet, physical activity, blood glucose monitoring, foot care, etc.). Despite the homogeneity in the aims of the interventions, there was substantial clinical heterogeneity in other intervention characteristics such as duration, intensity, setting, mode of delivery (group vs. individual), interventionist, and outcomes of interest (discussed below).
Duration, Intensity and Mode of Delivery
Intervention durations ranged from 2 days to 1 year, with many falling into the range of 6 to 10 weeks. The rest of the interventions fell into categories of ≤ 2 weeks (2 studies), 6 months (2 studies), or 1 year (3 studies). Intensity of the interventions varied widely from 6 hours over 2 days, to 52 hours over 1 year; however, the majority consisted of interventions of 6 to 15 hours. Both individual and group sessions were used to deliver interventions. Group counselling was used in five studies as a mode of instruction, three studies used both individual and group sessions, and one study used individual sessions as its sole mode of instruction. Three studies also incorporated the use of telephone support as part of the intervention.
Interventionists and Setting
The following interventionists were reported (highest to lowest percentage, categories not mutually exclusive): nurse (36%), dietician (18%), physician (9%), pharmacist (9%), peer leader/community worker (18%), and other (36%). The ‘other’ category included interventionists such as consultants and facilitators with unspecified professional backgrounds. The setting of most interventions was community-based (seven studies), followed by primary care practices (three studies). One study described an intervention conducted in a pharmacy setting.
Outcomes
Duration of follow up of the studies ranged from 6 months to 8 years with a median follow-up duration of 12 months. Nine studies followed up patients at a minimum of two time points. Despite clear reporting of outcomes at follow up time points, there was poor reporting on whether the follow up was measured from participant entry into study or from end of intervention. All studies reported measures of glycemic control, specifically HbA1c levels. BMI was measured in five studies, while body weight was reported in two studies. Cholesterol was examined in three studies and blood pressure reduction in two. Smoking status was only examined in one of the studies. Additional outcomes examined in the trials included patient satisfaction, quality of life, diabetes knowledge, diabetes medication reduction, and behaviour modification (i.e. daily consumption of fruits/vegetables, exercise etc). Meta-analysis of the studies identified a moderate but significant reduction in HbA1c levels -0.44% 95%CI: -0.60, -0.29) for behavioural interventions in comparison to usual care for adults with type 2 diabetes. Subgroup analyses suggested the largest effects in interventions which were of at least duration and interventions in diabetics with higher baseline HbA1c (≥9.0). The quality of the evidence according to GRADE for the overall estimate was moderate and the quality of evidence for the subgroup analyses was identified as low.
Summary of Meta-Analysis of Studies Investigating the Effectiveness of Behavioural Interventions on HbA1c in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.
Based on one study
Conclusions
Based on moderate quality evidence, behavioural interventions as defined by the 2007 Self-management mapping guide (Government of Victoria, Australia) produce a moderate reduction in HbA1c levels in patients with type 2 diabetes compared with usual care.
Based on low quality evidence, the interventions with the largest effects are those:
- in diabetics with higher baseline HbA1c (≥9.0)
- in which the interventions were of at least 1 year in duration
PMCID: PMC3377516  PMID: 23074526
15.  A model and typology of collaboration between professionals in healthcare organizations 
Background
The new forms of organization of healthcare services entail the development of new clinical practices that are grounded in collaboration. Despite recent advances in research on the subject of collaboration, there is still a need for a better understanding of collaborative processes and for conceptual tools to help healthcare professionals develop collaboration amongst themselves in complex systems. This study draws on D'Amour's structuration model of collaboration to analyze healthcare facilities offering perinatal services in four health regions in the province of Quebec. The objectives are to: 1) validate the indicators of the structuration model of collaboration; 2) evaluate interprofessional and interorganizational collaboration in four health regions; and 3) propose a typology of collaboration
Methods
A multiple-case research strategy was used. The cases were the healthcare facilities that offer perinatal services in four health regions in the province of Quebec (Canada). The data were collected through 33 semi-structured interviews with healthcare managers and professionals working in the four regions. Written material was also analyzed. The data were subjected to a "mixed" inductive-deductive analysis conducted in two main stages: an internal analysis of each case followed by a cross-sectional analysis of all the cases.
Results
The collaboration indicators were shown to be valid, although some changes were made to three of them. Analysis of the data showed great variation in the level of collaboration between the cases and on each dimension. The results suggest a three-level typology of collaboration based on the ten indicators: active collaboration, developing collaboration and potential collaboration.
Conclusion
The model and the typology make it possible to analyze collaboration and identify areas for improvement. Researchers can use the indicators to determine the intensity of collaboration and link it to clinical outcomes. Professionals and administrators can use the model to perform a diagnostic of collaboration and implement interventions to intensify it.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-8-188
PMCID: PMC2563002  PMID: 18803881
16.  A longitudinal qualitative exploration of healthcare and informal support needs among survivors of critical illness: the RELINQUISH protocol 
BMJ Open  2012;2(4):e001507.
Introduction and background
Survival following critical illness is associated with a significant burden of physical, emotional and psychosocial morbidity. Recovery can be protracted and incomplete, with important and sustained effects upon everyday life, including family life, social participation and return to work. In stark contrast with other critically ill patient groups (eg, those following cardiothoracic surgery), there are comparatively few interventional studies of rehabilitation among the general intensive care unit patient population. This paper outlines the protocol for a sub study of the RECOVER study: a randomised controlled trial evaluating a complex intervention of enhanced ward-based rehabilitation for patients following discharge from intensive care.
Methods and analysis
The RELINQUISH study is a nested longitudinal, qualitative study of family support and perceived healthcare needs among RECOVER participants at key stages of the recovery process and at up to 1 year following hospital discharge. Its central premise is that recovery is a dynamic process wherein patients' needs evolve over time. RELINQUISH is novel in that we will incorporate two parallel strategies into our data analysis: (1) a pragmatic health services-oriented approach, using an a priori analytical construct, the ‘Timing it Right’ framework and (2) a constructivist grounded theory approach which allows the emergence of new themes and theoretical understandings from the data. We will subsequently use Qualitative Health Needs Assessment methodology to inform the development of timely and responsive healthcare interventions throughout the recovery process.
Ethics and dissemination
The protocol has been approved by the Lothian Research Ethics Committee (protocol number HSRU011). The study has been added to the UK Clinical Research Network Database (study ID. 9986). The authors will disseminate the findings in peer reviewed publications and to relevant critical care stakeholder groups.
Article summary
Article focus
This is a nested, qualitative longitudinal study of informal support and healthcare needs among participants in a randomised controlled complex rehabilitative intervention for survivors of critical illness (the RECOVER study).
Its central premise is that recovery is a dynamic process wherein patients' needs evolve over time.
This study will explore patient experience and will identify specific needs at key points in the recovery process, for the purpose of developing timely healthcare interventions.
Key messages
Qualitative studies of recovery are comparatively rare among survivors of critical illness, and longitudinal studies are rarer still.
Qualitative approaches provide rich and detailed insights into patient experience that are often inaccessible by questionnaire based approaches (alone).
Strengths and limitations of this study
A key strength of this study is its analytical strategy. Methodological triangulation with the ‘parent’ study's quantitative outcome data will enhance its interpretation. Theoretical triangulation will (1) produce pragmatic data for the purposes of health services development and (2) enhance theoretical understandings of the recovery process.
A potential limitation, however, is the resource intensity of the analytical process.
doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001507
PMCID: PMC3400070  PMID: 22802422
17.  A systems-based partnership learning model for strengthening primary healthcare 
Background
Strengthening primary healthcare systems is vital to improving health outcomes and reducing inequity. However, there are few tools and models available in published literature showing how primary care system strengthening can be achieved on a large scale. Challenges to strengthening primary healthcare (PHC) systems include the dispersion, diversity and relative independence of primary care providers; the scope and complexity of PHC; limited infrastructure available to support population health approaches; and the generally poor and fragmented state of PHC information systems.
Drawing on concepts of comprehensive PHC, integrated quality improvement (IQI) methods, system-based research networks, and system-based participatory action research, we describe a learning model for strengthening PHC that addresses these challenges. We describe the evolution of this model within the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary healthcare context, successes and challenges in its application, and key issues for further research.
Discussion
IQI approaches combined with system-based participatory action research and system-based research networks offer potential to support program implementation and ongoing learning across a wide scope of primary healthcare practice and on a large scale. The Partnership Learning Model (PLM) can be seen as an integrated model for large-scale knowledge translation across the scope of priority aspects of PHC. With appropriate engagement of relevant stakeholders, the model may be applicable to a wide range of settings. In IQI, and in the PLM specifically, there is a clear role for research in contributing to refining and evaluating existing tools and processes, and in developing and trialling innovations. Achieving an appropriate balance between funding IQI activity as part of routine service delivery and funding IQI related research will be vital to developing and sustaining this type of PLM.
Summary
This paper draws together several different previously described concepts and extends the understanding of how PHC systems can be strengthened through systematic and partnership-based approaches. We describe a model developed from these concepts and its application in the Australian Indigenous primary healthcare context, and raise questions about sustainability and wider relevance of the model.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-8-143
PMCID: PMC3878728  PMID: 24344640
Health systems strengthening; Quality improvement; Comprehensive primary healthcare; Participatory; Partnership; Learning; Information
18.  Point-of-Care International Normalized Ratio (INR) Monitoring Devices for Patients on Long-term Oral Anticoagulation Therapy 
Executive Summary
Subject of the Evidence-Based Analysis
The purpose of this evidence based analysis report is to examine the safety and effectiveness of point-of-care (POC) international normalized ratio (INR) monitoring devices for patients on long-term oral anticoagulation therapy (OAT).
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Long-term OAT is typically required by patients with mechanical heart valves, chronic atrial fibrillation, venous thromboembolism, myocardial infarction, stroke, and/or peripheral arterial occlusion. It is estimated that approximately 1% of the population receives anticoagulation treatment and, by applying this value to Ontario, there are an estimated 132,000 patients on OAT in the province, a figure that is expected to increase with the aging population.
Patients on OAT are regularly monitored and their medications adjusted to ensure that their INR scores remain in the therapeutic range. This can be challenging due to the narrow therapeutic window of warfarin and variation in individual responses. Optimal INR scores depend on the underlying indication for treatment and patient level characteristics, but for most patients the therapeutic range is an INR score of between 2.0 and 3.0.
The current standard of care in Ontario for patients on long-term OAT is laboratory-based INR determination with management carried out by primary care physicians or anticoagulation clinics (ACCs). Patients also regularly visit a hospital or community-based facility to provide a venous blood samples (venipuncture) that are then sent to a laboratory for INR analysis.
Experts, however, have commented that there may be under-utilization of OAT due to patient factors, physician factors, or regional practice variations and that sub-optimal patient management may also occur. There is currently no population-based Ontario data to permit the assessment of patient care, but recent systematic reviews have estimated that less that 50% of patients receive OAT on a routine basis and that patients are in the therapeutic range only 64% of the time.
Overview of POC INR Devices
POC INR devices offer an alternative to laboratory-based testing and venipuncture, enabling INR determination from a fingerstick sample of whole blood. Independent evaluations have shown POC devices to have an acceptable level of precision. They permit INR results to be determined immediately, allowing for more rapid medication adjustments.
POC devices can be used in a variety of settings including physician offices, ACCs, long-term care facilities, pharmacies, or by the patients themselves through self-testing (PST) or self-management (PSM) techniques. With PST, patients measure their INR values and then contact their physician for instructions on dose adjustment, whereas with PSM, patients adjust the medication themselves based on pre-set algorithms. These models are not suitable for all patients and require the identification and education of suitable candidates.
Potential advantages of POC devices include improved convenience to patients, better treatment compliance and satisfaction, more frequent monitoring and fewer thromboembolic and hemorrhagic complications. Potential disadvantages of the device include the tendency to underestimate high INR values and overestimate low INR values, low thromboplastin sensitivity, inability to calculate a mean normal PT, and errors in INR determination in patients with antiphospholipid antibodies with certain instruments. Although treatment satisfaction and quality of life (QoL) may improve with POC INR monitoring, some patients may experience increased anxiety or preoccupation with their disease with these strategies.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
Research Questions
1. Effectiveness
Does POC INR monitoring improve clinical outcomes in various settings compared to standard laboratory-based testing?
Does POC INR monitoring impact patient satisfaction, QoL, compliance, acceptability, convenience compared to standard laboratory-based INR determination?
Settings include primary care settings with use of POC INR devices by general practitioners or nurses, ACCs, pharmacies, long-term care homes, and use by the patient either for PST or PSM.
2. Cost-effectiveness
What is the cost-effectiveness of POC INR monitoring devices in various settings compared to standard laboratory-based INR determination?
Inclusion Criteria
English-language RCTs, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses
Publication dates: 1996 to November 25, 2008
Population: patients on OAT
Intervention: anticoagulation monitoring by POC INR device in any setting including anticoagulation clinic, primary care (general practitioner or nurse), pharmacy, long-term care facility, PST, PSM or any other POC INR strategy
Minimum sample size: 50 patients Minimum follow-up period: 3 months
Comparator: usual care defined as venipuncture blood draw for an INR laboratory test and management provided by an ACC or individual practitioner
Outcomes: Hemorrhagic events, thromboembolic events, all-cause mortality, anticoagulation control as assessed by proportion of time or values in the therapeutic range, patient reported outcomes including satisfaction, QoL, compliance, acceptability, convenience
Exclusion criteria
Non-RCTs, before-after studies, quasi-experimental studies, observational studies, case reports, case series, editorials, letters, non-systematic reviews, conference proceedings, abstracts, non-English articles, duplicate publications
Studies where POC INR devices were compared to laboratory testing to assess test accuracy
Studies where the POC INR results were not used to guide patient management
Method of Review
A search of electronic databases (OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, The Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment [INAHTA] database) was undertaken to identify evidence published from January 1, 1998 to November 25, 2008. Studies meeting the inclusion criteria were selected from the search results. Reference lists of selected articles were also checked for relevant studies.
Summary of Findings
Five existing reviews and 22 articles describing 17 unique RCTs met the inclusion criteria. Three RCTs examined POC INR monitoring devices with PST strategies, 11 RCTs examined PSM strategies, one RCT included both PST and PSM strategies and two RCTs examined the use of POC INR monitoring devices by health care professionals.
Anticoagulation Control
Anticoagulation control is measured by the percentage of time INR is within the therapeutic range or by the percentage of INR values in the therapeutic range. Due to the differing methodologies and reporting structures used, it was deemed inappropriate to combine the data and estimate whether the difference between groups would be significant. Instead, the results of individual studies were weighted by the number of person-years of observation and then pooled to calculate a summary measure.
Across most studies, patients in the intervention groups tended to have a higher percentage of time and values in the therapeutic target range in comparison to control patients. When the percentage of time in the therapeutic range was pooled across studies and weighted by the number of person-years of observation, the difference between the intervention and control groups was 4.2% for PSM, 7.2% for PST and 6.1% for POC use by health care practitioners. Overall, intervention patients were in the target range 69% of the time and control patients were in the therapeutic target range 64% of the time leading to an overall difference between groups of roughly 5%.
Major Complications and Deaths
There was no statistically significant difference in the number of major hemorrhagic events between patients managed with POC INR monitoring devices and patients managed with standard laboratory testing (OR =0.74; 95% CI: 0.52- 1.04). This difference was non-significant for all POC strategies (PSM, PST, health care practitioner).
Patients managed with POC INR monitoring devices had significantly fewer thromboembolic events than usual care patients (OR =0.52; 95% CI: 0.37 - 0.74). When divided by POC strategy, PSM resulted in significantly fewer thromboembolic events than usual care (OR =0.46.; 95% CI: 0.29 - 0.72). The observed difference in thromboembolic events for PSM remained significant when the analysis was limited to major thromboembolic events (OR =0.40; 95% CI: 0.17 - 0.93), but was non-significant when the analysis was limited to minor thromboembolic events (OR =0.73; 95% CI: 0.08 - 7.01). PST and GP/Nurse strategies did not result in significant differences in thromboembolic events, however there were only a limited number of studies examining these interventions.
No statistically significant difference was observed in the number of deaths between POC intervention and usual care control groups (OR =0.67; 95% CI: 0.41 - 1.10). This difference was non-significant for all POC strategies. Only one study reported on survival with 10-year survival rate of 76.1% in the usual care control group compared to 84.5% in the PSM group (P=0.05).
Summary Results of Meta-Analyses of Major Complications and Deaths in POC INR Monitoring Studies
Patient Satisfaction and Quality of Life
Quality of life measures were reported in eight studies comparing POC INR monitoring to standard laboratory testing using a variety of measurement tools. It was thus not possible to calculate a quantitative summary measure. The majority of studies reported favourable impacts of POC INR monitoring on QoL and found better treatment satisfaction with POC monitoring. Results from a pre-analysis patient and caregiver focus group conducted in Ontario also indicated improved patient QoL with POC monitoring.
Quality of the Evidence
Studies varied with regard to patient eligibility, baseline patient characteristics, follow-up duration, and withdrawal rates. Differential drop-out rates were observed such that the POC intervention groups tended to have a larger number of patients who withdrew. There was a lack of consistency in the definitions and reporting for OAT control and definitions of adverse events. In most studies, the intervention group received more education on the use of warfarin and performed more frequent INR testing, which may have overestimated the effect of the POC intervention. Patient selection and eligibility criteria were not always fully described and it is likely that the majority of the PST/PSM trials included a highly motivated patient population. Lastly, a large number of trials were also sponsored by industry.
Despite the observed heterogeneity among studies, there was a general consensus in findings that POC INR monitoring devices have beneficial impacts on the risk of thromboembolic events, anticoagulation control and patient satisfaction and QoL (ES Table 2).
GRADE Quality of the Evidence on POC INR Monitoring Studies
CI refers to confidence interval; Interv, intervention; OR, odds ratio; RCT, randomized controlled trial.
Economic Analysis
Using a 5-year Markov model, the health and economic outcomes associated with four different anticoagulation management approaches were evaluated:
Standard care: consisting of a laboratory test with a venipuncture blood draw for an INR;
Healthcare staff testing: consisting of a test with a POC INR device in a medical clinic comprised of healthcare staff such as pharmacists, nurses, and physicians following protocol to manage OAT;
PST: patient self-testing using a POC INR device and phoning in results to an ACC or family physician; and
PSM: patient self-managing using a POC INR device and self-adjustment of OAT according to a standardized protocol. Patients may also phone in to a medical office for guidance.
The primary analytic perspective was that of the MOHLTC. Only direct medical costs were considered and the time horizon of the model was five years - the serviceable life of a POC device.
From the results of the economic analysis, it was found that POC strategies are cost-effective compared to traditional INR laboratory testing. In particular, the healthcare staff testing strategy can derive potential cost savings from the use of one device for multiple patients. The PSM strategy, however, seems to be the most cost-effective method i.e. patients are more inclined to adjust their INRs more readily (as opposed to allowing INRs to fall out of range).
Considerations for Ontario Health System
Although the use of POC devices continues to diffuse throughout Ontario, not all OAT patients are suitable or have the ability to practice PST/PSM. The use of POC is currently concentrated at the institutional setting, including hospitals, ACCs, long-term care facilities, physician offices and pharmacies, and is much less commonly used at the patient level. It is, however, estimated that 24% of OAT patients (representing approximately 32,000 patients in Ontario), would be suitable candidates for PST/PSM strategies and willing to use a POC device.
There are several barriers to the use and implementation of POC INR monitoring devices, including factors such as lack of physician familiarity with the devices, resistance to changing established laboratory-based methods, lack of an approach for identifying suitable patients and inadequate resources for effective patient education and training. Issues of cost and insufficient reimbursement strategies may also hinder implementation and effective quality assurance programs would need to be developed to ensure that INR measurements are accurate and precise.
Conclusions
For a select group of patients who are highly motivated and trained, PSM resulted in significantly fewer thromboembolic events compared to conventional laboratory-based INR testing. No significant differences were observed for major hemorrhages or all-cause mortality. PST and GP/Nurse use of POC strategies are just as effective as conventional laboratory-based INR testing for thromboembolic events, major hemorrhages, and all-cause mortality. POC strategies may also result in better OAT control as measured by the proportion of time INR is in the therapeutic range and there appears to be beneficial impacts on patient satisfaction and QoL. The use of POC devices should factor in patient suitability, patient education and training, health system constraints, and affordability.
Keywords
anticoagulants, International Normalized Ratio, point-of-care, self-monitoring, warfarin.
PMCID: PMC3377545  PMID: 23074516
19.  The Influence of Health Systems on Hypertension Awareness, Treatment, and Control: A Systematic Literature Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(7):e1001490.
Will Maimaris and colleagues systematically review the evidence that national or regional health systems, including place of care and medication co-pays, influence hypertension awareness, treatment, and control.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Hypertension (HT) affects an estimated one billion people worldwide, nearly three-quarters of whom live in low- or middle-income countries (LMICs). In both developed and developing countries, only a minority of individuals with HT are adequately treated. The reasons are many but, as with other chronic diseases, they include weaknesses in health systems. We conducted a systematic review of the influence of national or regional health systems on HT awareness, treatment, and control.
Methods and Findings
Eligible studies were those that analyzed the impact of health systems arrangements at the regional or national level on HT awareness, treatment, control, or antihypertensive medication adherence. The following databases were searched on 13th May 2013: Medline, Embase, Global Health, LILACS, Africa-Wide Information, IMSEAR, IMEMR, and WPRIM. There were no date or language restrictions. Two authors independently assessed papers for inclusion, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias. A narrative synthesis of the findings was conducted. Meta-analysis was not conducted due to substantial methodological heterogeneity in included studies. 53 studies were included, 11 of which were carried out in LMICs. Most studies evaluated health system financing and only four evaluated the effect of either human, physical, social, or intellectual resources on HT outcomes. Reduced medication co-payments were associated with improved HT control and treatment adherence, mainly evaluated in US settings. On balance, health insurance coverage was associated with improved outcomes of HT care in US settings. Having a routine place of care or physician was associated with improved HT care.
Conclusions
This review supports the minimization of medication co-payments in health insurance plans, and although studies were largely conducted in the US, the principle is likely to apply more generally. Studies that identify and analyze complexities and links between health systems arrangements and their effects on HT management are required, particularly in LMICs.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
In 2008, one billion people, three-quarters of whom were living in low- and middle-income countries, had high blood pressure (hypertension). Worldwide, hypertension, which rarely has any symptoms, leads to about 7.5 million deaths annually from heart attacks, stroke, other cardiovascular diseases, and kidney disease. Hypertension, selected by the World Health Organization as the theme for World Health Day 2013, is diagnosed by measuring blood pressure, the force that blood circulating in the body exerts on the inside of large blood vessels. Blood pressure is highest when the heart is contracts to pump blood out (systolic blood pressure) and lowest when the heart relaxes and refills (diastolic blood pressure). Normal adult blood pressure is defined as a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and a diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 mmHg (a blood pressure of less than 120/80 mmHg). A blood pressure reading of more than 140/90 mmHg indicates hypertension. Many factors affect blood pressure, but overweight people and individuals who eat fatty or salty foods are at high risk of developing hypertension.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most individuals can achieve good hypertension control, which reduces death and disability from cardiovascular and kidney disease, by making lifestyle changes (mild hypertension) and/or by taking antihypertensive drugs. Yet, in both developed and developing countries, many people with hypertension are not aware of their condition and are not adequately treated. As with other chronic diseases, weaknesses in health care systems probably contribute to the inadequate treatment of hypertension. A health care system comprises all the organizations, institutions, and resources whose primary purpose is to improve health. Weaknesses in health care systems can exist at the national, regional, district, community, and household level. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers investigate how national and regional health care system arrangements influence hypertension awareness, treatment, and control. Actions that might influence hypertension care at this level of health care systems include providing treatment for hypertension at no or reduced cost, the introduction of financial incentives to healthcare practitioners for the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, and enhanced insurance coverage in countries such as the US where people pay for health care through insurance policies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 53 studies that analyzed whether regional or national health care systems arrangements were associated with patient awareness of hypertension, treatment of hypertension, adherence to antihypertensive medication treatment, and control of hypertension. The researchers used an established conceptual framework for health care systems and an approach called narrative synthesis to analyze the results of these studies, most of which were conducted in the US (36 studies) and other high-income countries (eight studies). Nearly all the studies evaluated the effects of health system financing on hypertension outcomes, although several looked at the effects of delivery and governance of health systems on these outcomes. The researchers' analysis revealed an association between reduced medication co-payments (drug costs that are not covered by health insurance and that are paid by patients in countries without universal free healthcare) and improved hypertension control and treatment adherence, mainly in US settings. In addition, in US settings, health insurance coverage was associated with improved hypertension outcomes, as was having a routine physician or place of care.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that minimizing co-payments for health care and expansion of health insurance coverage in countries without universal free health care may improve the awareness, treatment, and control of hypertension. Although these findings are based mainly on US studies, they are likely to apply more generally but, importantly, these findings indicate that additional, high-quality studies are needed to unravel the impact of health systems arrangements on the management of hypertension. In particular, they reveal few studies in low- and middle-income countries where most of the global burden of hypertension lies and where weaknesses in health systems often result in deficiencies in the care of chronic diseases. Moreover, they highlight a need for studies that evaluate how aspects of health care systems other than financing (for example, delivery and governance mechanisms) and interactions between health care system arrangements affect hypertension outcomes. Without the results of such studies, governments and national and international organizations will not know the best ways to deal effectively with the global public-health crisis posed by hypertension.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001490.
The US National Heart Lung and Blood Institute has patient information about high blood pressure (in English and Spanish)
The American Heart Association provides information on high blood pressure (in several languages) and personal stories about dealing with high blood pressure
The UK National Health Service (NHS) Choices website provides detailed information for patients about hypertension and a personal story about hypertension
The World Health Organization provides information on controlling blood pressure and on health systems (in several languages); its "A Global Brief on Hypertension" was published on World Health Day 2013
MedlinePlus provides links to further information about high blood pressure (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001490
PMCID: PMC3728036  PMID: 23935461
20.  Minimally invasive surgical procedures for the treatment of lumbar disc herniation 
Introduction
In up to 30% of patients undergoing lumbar disc surgery for herniated or protruded discs outcomes are judged unfavourable. Over the last decades this problem has stimulated the development of a number of minimally-invasive operative procedures. The aim is to relieve pressure from compromised nerve roots by mechanically removing, dissolving or evaporating disc material while leaving bony structures and surrounding tissues as intact as possible. In Germany, there is hardly any utilisation data for these new procedures – data files from the statutory health insurances demonstrate that about 5% of all lumbar disc surgeries are performed using minimally-invasive techniques. Their real proportion is thought to be much higher because many procedures are offered by private hospitals and surgeries and are paid by private health insurers or patients themselves. So far no comprehensive assessment comparing efficacy, safety, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery to standard procedures (microdiscectomy, open discectomy) which could serve as a basis for coverage decisions, has been published in Germany.
Objective
Against this background the aim of the following assessment is:
Based on published scientific literature assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery compared to standard procedures. To identify and critically appraise studies comparing costs and cost-effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures to that of standard procedures. If necessary identify research and evaluation needs and point out regulative needs within the German health care system. The assessment focusses on procedures that are used in elective lumbar disc surgery as alternative treatment options to microdiscectomy or open discectomy. Chemonucleolysis, percutaneous manual discectomy, automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy, laserdiscectomy and endoscopic procedures accessing the disc by a posterolateral or posterior approach are included.
Methods
In order to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures as well as their economic implications systematic reviews of the literature are performed. A comprehensive search strategy is composed to search 23 electronic databases, among them MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library. Methodological quality of systematic reviews, HTA reports and primary research is assessed using checklists of the German Scientific Working Group for Health Technology Assessment. Quality and transparency of cost analyses are documented using the quality and transparency catalogues of the working group. Study results are summarised in a qualitative manner. Due to the limited number and the low methodological quality of the studies it is not possible to conduct metaanalyses. In addition to the results of controlled trials results of recent case series are introduced and discussed.
Results
The evidence-base to assess safety, efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery procedures is rather limited:
Percutaneous manual discectomy: Six case series (four after 1998)Automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy: Two RCT (one discontinued), twelve case series (one after 1998)Chemonucleolysis: Five RCT, five non-randomised controlled trials, eleven case seriesPercutaneous laserdiscectomy: One non-randomised controlled trial, 13 case series (eight after 1998)Endoscopic procedures: Three RCT, 21 case series (17 after 1998)
There are two economic analyses each retrieved for chemonucleolysis and automated percutaneous discectomy as well as one cost-minimisation analysis comparing costs of an endoscopic procedure to costs for open discectomy.
Among all minimally-invasive procedures chemonucleolysis is the only of which efficacy may be judged on the basis of results from high quality randomised controlled trials (RCT). Study results suggest that the procedure maybe (cost)effectively used as an intermediate therapeutical option between conservative and operative management of small lumbar disc herniations or protrusions causing sciatica. Two RCT comparing transforaminal endoscopic procedures with microdiscectomy in patients with sciatica and small non-sequestered disc herniations show comparable short and medium term overall success rates. Concerning speed of recovery and return to work a trend towards more favourable results for the endoscopic procedures is noted. It is doubtful though, whether these results from the eleven and five years old studies are still valid for the more advanced procedures used today. The only RCT comparing the results of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy to those of microdiscectomy showed clearly superior results of microdiscectomy. Furthermore, success rates of automated percutaneous lumbar discectomy reported in the RCT (29%) differ extremely from success rates reported in case series (between 56% and 92%).
The literature search retrieves no controlled trials to assess efficacy and/or effectiveness of laser-discectomy, percutaneous manual discectomy or endoscopic procedures using a posterior approach in comparison to the standard procedures. Results from recent case series permit no assessment of efficacy, especially not in comparison to standard procedures. Due to highly selected patients, modi-fications of operative procedures, highly specialised surgical units and poorly standardised outcome assessment results of case series are highly variable, their generalisability is low.
The results of the five economical analyses are, due to conceptual and methodological problems, of no value for decision-making in the context of the German health care system.
Discussion
Aside from low methodological study quality three conceptual problems complicate the interpretation of results.
Continuous further development of technologies leads to a diversity of procedures in use which prohibits generalisation of study results. However, diversity is noted not only for minimally-invasive procedures but also for the standard techniques against which the new developments are to be compared. The second problem refers to the heterogeneity of study populations. For most studies one common inclusion criterion was "persisting sciatica after a course of conservative treatment of variable duration". Differences among study populations are noted concerning results of imaging studies. Even within every group of minimally-invasive procedure, studies define their own in- and exclusion criteria which differ concerning degree of dislocation and sequestration of disc material. There is the non-standardised assessment of outcomes which are performed postoperatively after variable periods of time. Most studies report results in a dichotomous way as success or failure while the classification of a result is performed using a variety of different assessment instruments or procedures. Very often the global subjective judgement of results by patients or surgeons is reported. There are no scientific discussions whether these judgements are generalisable or comparable, especially among studies that are conducted under differing socio-cultural conditions. Taking into account the weak evidence-base for efficacy and effectiveness of minimally-invasive procedures it is not surprising that so far there are no dependable economic analyses.
Conclusions
Conclusions that can be drawn from the results of the present assessment refer in detail to the specified minimally-invasive procedures of lumbar disc surgery but they may also be considered exemplary for other fields where optimisation of results is attempted by technological development and widening of indications (e.g. total hip replacement).
Compared to standard technologies (open discectomy, microdiscectomy) and with the exception of chemonucleolysis, the developmental status of all other minimally-invasive procedures assessed must be termed experimental. To date there is no dependable evidence-base to recommend their use in routine clinical practice. To create such a dependable evidence-base further research in two directions is needed: a) The studies need to include adequate patient populations, use realistic controls (e.g. standard operative procedures or continued conservative care) and use standardised measurements of meaningful outcomes after adequate periods of time. b) Studies that are able to report effectiveness of the procedures under everyday practice conditions and furthermore have the potential to detect rare adverse effects are needed. In Sweden this type of data is yielded by national quality registries. On the one hand their data are used for quality improvement measures and on the other hand they allow comprehensive scientific evaluations. Since the year of 2000 a continuous rise in utilisation of minimally-invasive lumbar disc surgery is observed among statutory health insurers. Examples from other areas of innovative surgical technologies (e.g. robot assisted total hip replacement) indicate that the rise will probably continue - especially because there are no legal barriers to hinder introduction of innovative treatments into routine hospital care. Upon request by payers or providers the "Gemeinsamer Bundesausschuss" may assess a treatments benefit, its necessity and cost-effectiveness as a prerequisite for coverage by the statutory health insurance. In the case of minimally-invasive disc surgery it would be advisable to examine the legal framework for covering procedures only if they are provided under evaluation conditions. While in Germany coverage under evaluation conditions is established practice in ambulatory health care only (“Modellvorhaben") examples from other European countries (Great Britain, Switzerland) demonstrate that it is also feasible for hospital based interventions. In order to assure patient protection and at the same time not hinder the further development of new and promising technologies provision under evaluation conditions could also be realised in the private health care market - although in this sector coverage is not by law linked to benefit, necessity and cost-effectiveness of an intervention.
PMCID: PMC3011322  PMID: 21289928
21.  Paying for the Orphan Drug System: break or bend? Is it time for a new evaluation system for payers in Europe to take account of new rare disease treatments? 
Since its enactment in 2000, the European Orphan Medicinal Products Regulation has allowed the review and approval of approaching 70 treatments for some 55 different conditions in Europe. Success does not come without a price, however. Many of these so-called “orphan drugs” have higher price points than treatments for more common diseases. This has been raising debate as to whether the treatments are worth it, which, in turn risks blocking patient access to treatment. To date, orphan drugs have only accounted for a small percentage of the overall drug budget. It would appear that, with increasing numbers of orphan drugs, governments are concerned about the future budget impact and their cost-effectiveness in comparison with other healthcare interventions. Orphan drugs are under the spotlight, something that is likely to continue as the economic crisis in Europe takes hold and governments respond with austerity measures that include cuts to healthcare expenditures. Formally and informally, governments are looking at how they are going to handle orphan drugs in the future. Collaborative proposals between EU governments to better understand the value of orphan drugs are under consideration. In recent years there has been increasing criticism of behaviours in the orphan drug field, mainly centring on two key perceptions of the system: the high prices of orphan drugs and their inability to meet standard cost-effectiveness thresholds; and the construct of the system itself, which allows companies to gain the benefits that accrue from being badged as an orphan drug. The authors hypothesise that, by examining these criticisms individually, one might be able to turn these different “behaviours” into criteria for the creation of a system to evaluate new orphan drugs coming onto the market. It has been acknowledged that standard methodologies for Health Technology Assessments (HTA) will need to be tailored to take into account the specificities of orphan drugs given that the higher price-points claimed by orphan drugs are unlikely to meet current cost-effectiveness thresholds. The authors propose the development of a new assessment system based on several evaluation criteria, which would serve as a tool for Member State governments to evaluate each new orphan drug at the time of pricing and reimbursement. These should include rarity, disease severity, the availability of other alternatives (level of unmet medical need), the level of impact on the condition that the new treatment offers, whether the product can be used in one or more indications, the level of research undertaken by the developer, together with other factors, such as manufacturing complexity and follow-up measures required by regulatory or other authorities. This will allow governments to value an orphan drug that fulfilled all the criteria very differently from one that only met some of them. An individual country could determine the (monetary) value that it places on each of the different criteria, according to societal preferences, the national healthcare system and the resources at its disposal – each individual government deciding on the weighting attributed to each of the criteria in question, based on what each individual society values most. Such a systematic and transparent system will help frame a more structured dialogue between manufacturers and payers, with the involvement of the treating physicians and the patients; and foster a more certain environment to stimulate continued investment in the field. A new approach could also offer pricing and reimbursement decision-makers a tool to handle the different characteristics amongst new orphan drugs and to redistribute the national budgets in accordance with the outcome of a differentiated assessment. The authors believe that this could, therefore, facilitate the approach for all stakeholders.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-7-74
PMCID: PMC3582462  PMID: 23013790
22.  Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Rising Healthcare Issue 
Healthcare Policy  2006;1(3):19-30.
More than half of all Canadians use some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) every year. The way CAM is being used, the magnitude of its use and the lack of clarity on standards of evidence make CAM a rising healthcare issue. A recent research priority-setting exercise by the Canadian Interdisciplinary Network for CAM Research (IN-CAM) identified three research priority areas: (1) healthcare delivery and policy research, including (a) exploring if and how CAM should be regulated, (b) defining what constitutes acceptable evidence of safety and efficacy, (c) investigating the organization and delivery of integrative healthcare; (2) methodological research, including exploring how best to assess whole systems of care and how to choose patient-, practitioner- and policy-relevant outcome measures; and (3) knowledge transfer, including formal education strategies, the provision of information and dialogue with those who use information in decision-making. The high use of CAM products and therapies leads to many questions from patients, practitioners and policy makers. The research agenda presented here provides a guide to begin programs of research that will answer these questions.
PMCID: PMC2585340  PMID: 19305666
23.  Generalist solutions to complex problems: generating practice-based evidence - the example of managing multi-morbidity 
BMC Family Practice  2013;14:112.
Background
A growing proportion of people are living with long term conditions. The majority have more than one. Dealing with multi-morbidity is a complex problem for health systems: for those designing and implementing healthcare as well as for those providing the evidence informing practice. Yet the concept of multi-morbidity (the presence of >2 diseases) is a product of the design of health care systems which define health care need on the basis of disease status. So does the solution lie in an alternative model of healthcare?
Discussion
Strengthening generalist practice has been proposed as part of the solution to tackling multi-morbidity. Generalism is a professional philosophy of practice, deeply known to many practitioners, and described as expertise in whole person medicine. But generalism lacks the evidence base needed by policy makers and planners to support service redesign. The challenge is to fill this practice-research gap in order to critically explore if and when generalist care offers a robust alternative to management of this complex problem.
We need practice-based evidence to fill this gap. By recognising generalist practice as a ‘complex intervention’ (intervening in a complex system), we outline an approach to evaluate impact using action-research principles. We highlight the implications for those who both commission and undertake research in order to tackle this problem.
Summary
Answers to the complex problem of multi-morbidity won’t come from doing more of the same. We need to change systems of care, and so the systems for generating evidence to support that care. This paper contributes to that work through outlining a process for generating practice-based evidence of generalist solutions to the complex problem of person-centred care for people with multi-morbidity.
doi:10.1186/1471-2296-14-112
PMCID: PMC3750615  PMID: 23919296
Generalism; Primary care; Action research; Multimorbidity
24.  Factors influencing the implementation of fall-prevention programmes: a systematic review and synthesis of qualitative studies 
Background
More than a third of people over the age of 65 years fall each year. Falling can lead to a reduction in quality of life, mortality, and a risk of prolonged hospitalisation. Reducing and preventing falls has become an international health priority. To help understand why research evidence has often not been translated into changes in clinical practice, we undertook a systematic review and synthesis of qualitative research in order to identify what factors serve as barriers and facilitators to the successful implementation of fall-prevention programmes.
Methods
We conducted a review of literature published between 1980 and January 2012 for qualitative research studies that examined barriers and facilitators to the effective implementation of fall-prevention interventions among community-dwelling older people and healthcare professionals. Two reviewers independently screened studies for inclusion, extracted data, and assessed methodological quality according to predefined criteria. Findings were synthesised using meta-ethnography.
Results
Of the 5010 articles identified through database searching, 19 were included in the review. Analysis of the 19 studies revealed limited information about the mechanisms by which barriers to implementation of fall-prevention interventions had been overcome. Data synthesis produced three overarching concepts: (1) practical considerations, (2) adapting for community, and (3) psychosocial. A line of argument synthesis describes the barriers and facilitators to the successful implementation of fall-prevention programmes. These concepts show that the implementation of fall-prevention programmes is complex and multifactorial. This is the first systematic review and synthesis of qualitative studies to examine factors influencing the implementation of fall-prevention programmes from the perspectives of both the healthcare professional and the community-dwelling older person.
Conclusions
The current literature on barriers and facilitators to the implementation of fall-prevention programmes examines a variety of interventions. However, the ways in which the interventions are reported suggests there are substantial methodological challenges that often inhibit implementation into practice. We recommend that successful implementation requires individuals, professionals, and organisations to modify established behaviours, thoughts, and practice. The issues identified through this synthesis need to be fully considered and addressed if fall-prevention programmes are to be successfully implemented into clinical practice.
doi:10.1186/1748-5908-7-91
PMCID: PMC3576261  PMID: 22978693
Fall prevention; Systematic review; Meta-ethnography; Implementation
25.  Terminology used to describe health care teams: an integrative review of the literature 
Purpose
Health systems around the world are struggling to meet the needs of aging populations and increasing numbers of clients with complex health conditions. Faced with multiple health system challenges, governments are advocating for team-based approaches to health care. Key descriptors used to describe health care teams include “interprofessional,” “multiprofessional,” “interdisciplinary,” and “multidisciplinary.” Until now there has been no review of the use of terminology relating to health care teams. The purpose of this integrative review is to provide a descriptive analysis of terminology used to describe health care teams.
Methods
An integrative review of the literature was conducted because it allows for the inclusion of literature related to studies using diverse methodologies. The authors searched the literature using the terms interprofessional, multiprofessional, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary combined with “health teams” and “health care teams.” Refining strategies included a requirement that journal articles define the term used to describe health care teams and include a list of health care team members. The literature selection process resulted in the inclusion of 17 journal articles in this review.
Results:
Multidisciplinary is more frequently used than other terminology to describe health care teams. The findings in this review relate to frequency of terminology usage, justifications for use of specific terminology, commonalities and patterns related to country of origin of research studies and health care areas, ways in which terminology is used, structure of team membership, and perspectives of definitions used.
Conclusion:
Stakeholders across the health care continuum share responsibility for developing and consistently using terminology that is both common and meaningful. Notwithstanding some congruence in terminology usage, this review highlights inconsistencies in the literature and suggests that broad debate among policy makers, clinicians, educators, researchers, and consumers is still required to reach useful consensus.
doi:10.2147/JMDH.S40676
PMCID: PMC3590931  PMID: 23483767
descriptors; interprofessional; multiprofessional; interdisciplinary; multidisciplinary

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