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1.  Evaluating the uptake and effects of the computerized decision support system NHGDoc on quality of primary care: protocol for a large-scale cluster randomized controlled trial 
Computerized decision support systems (CDSSs) are increasingly used to improve quality of care. There is evidence for moderate to large effects from randomized controlled trials (RCTs), but evidence on their effectiveness when implemented at a national level is lacking. In the Netherlands, the Dutch College of General Practitioners (NHG) initiated their successful guideline program already 30 years ago. NHGDoc, a CDSS based on these NHG guidelines, covering multiple disease areas for general practice, was developed in 2006 with the aim to improve quality of primary care. In this paper, a protocol is presented to evaluate the uptake and effects of NHGDoc.
A cluster RCT will be conducted among 120 general practices in the Netherlands. Eligible general practices will be randomized to receive either the regular NHGDoc decision support modules (control arm) or the regular modules plus an additional module on heart failure (intervention arm). The heart failure module consists of patient-specific alerts concerning the treatment of patients with heart failure. The effect evaluation will focus on performance indicators (e.g., prescription behavior) as well as on patient outcomes (e.g., hospital admissions) relevant in the domain of heart failure. Additionally, a process evaluation will be conducted to gain insight into the barriers and facilitators that affect the uptake and impact of NHGDoc.
Results of this study will provide insight in the uptake and impact of a multiple-domain covering CDSS for primary care implemented by a national guideline organization to improve the quality of primary care. Whereas the trial focuses on a specific domain of care—heart failure—conclusions of this study will shed light on the functioning of CDSSs covering multiple disease areas for primary care, particularly as this study also explores the factors contributing to the system’s uptake and effectiveness.
Trial registration
Clinical trials NCT01773057
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13012-014-0145-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4205280  PMID: 25322766
Clinical decision support; Clinical practice guidelines; Primary care; Process of care; Patient outcomes
2.  Current Guidelines Have Limited Applicability to Patients with Comorbid Conditions: A Systematic Analysis of Evidence-Based Guidelines 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25987.
Guidelines traditionally focus on the diagnosis and treatment of single diseases. As almost half of the patients with a chronic disease have more than one disease, the applicability of guidelines may be limited. The aim of this study was to assess the extent that guidelines address comorbidity and to assess the supporting evidence of recommendations related to comorbidity.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We conducted a systematic analysis of evidence-based guidelines focusing on four highly prevalent chronic conditions with a high impact on quality of life: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depressive disorder, diabetes mellitus type 2, and osteoarthritis. Data were abstracted from each guideline on the extent that comorbidity was addressed (general comments, specific recommendations), the type of comorbidity discussed (concordant, discordant), and the supporting evidence of the comorbidity-related recommendations (level of evidence, translation of evidence). Of the 20 guidelines, 17 (85%) addressed the issue of comorbidity and 14 (70%) provided specific recommendations on comorbidity. In general, the guidelines included few recommendations on patients with comorbidity (mean 3 recommendations per guideline, range 0 to 26). Of the 59 comorbidity-related recommendations provided, 46 (78%) addressed concordant comorbidities, 8 (14%) discordant comorbidities, and for 5 (8%) the type of comorbidity was not specified. The strength of the supporting evidence was moderate for 25% (15/59) and low for 37% (22/59) of the recommendations. In addition, for 73% (43/59) of the recommendations the evidence was not adequately translated into the guidelines.
Our study showed that the applicability of current evidence-based guidelines to patients with comorbid conditions is limited. Most guidelines do not provide explicit guidance on treatment of patients with comorbidity, particularly for discordant combinations. Guidelines should be more explicit about the applicability of their recommendations to patients with comorbidity. Future clinical trials should also include patients with the most prevalent combinations of chronic conditions.
PMCID: PMC3197602  PMID: 22028802
3.  Perceived barriers to guideline adherence: A survey among general practitioners 
BMC Family Practice  2011;12:98.
Despite considerable efforts to promote and support guideline use, adherence is often suboptimal. Barriers to adherence vary not only across guidelines but also across recommendations within guidelines. The aim of this study was to assess the perceived barriers to guideline adherence among GPs by focusing on key recommendations within guidelines.
We conducted a cross-sectional electronic survey among 703 GPs in the Netherlands. Sixteen key recommendations were derived from four national guidelines. Six statements were included to address the attitudes towards guidelines in general. In addition, GPs were asked to rate their perceived adherence (one statement) and the perceived barriers (fourteen statements) for each of the key recommendations, based on an existing framework.
264 GPs (38%) completed the questionnaire. Although 35% of the GPs reported difficulties in changing routines and habits to follow guidelines, 89% believed that following guidelines leads to improved patient care. Perceived adherence varied between 52 and 95% across recommendations (mean: 77%). The most perceived barriers were related to external factors, in particular patient ability and behaviour (mean: 30%) and patient preferences (mean: 23%). Lack of applicability of recommendations in general (mean: 22%) and more specifically to individual patients (mean: 25%) were also frequently perceived as barriers. The scores on perceived barriers differed largely between recommendations [minimum range 14%; maximum range 67%].
Dutch GPs have a positive attitude towards the NHG guidelines, report high adherence rates and low levels of perceived barriers. However, the perceived adherence and perceived barriers varied largely across recommendations. The most perceived barriers across recommendations are patient related, suggesting that current guidelines do not always adequately incorporate patient preferences, needs and abilities. It may be useful to provide tools such as decision aids, supporting the flexible use of guidelines to individual patients in practice.
PMCID: PMC3197492  PMID: 21939542
4.  Guidelines on uncomplicated urinary tract infections are difficult to follow: perceived barriers and suggested interventions 
BMC Family Practice  2010;11:51.
Urinary tract infections (UTI) are among the most common health problems seen in general practice. Evidence-based guidelines on UTI are available, but adherence to these guidelines varies widely among practitioners for reasons not well understood. The aim of this study was to identify the barriers to the implementation of a guideline on UTI perceived by Dutch general practitioners (GPs) and to explore interventions to overcome these barriers.
A focus group study, including 13 GPs working in general practices in the Netherlands, was conducted. Key recommendations on diagnosis and treatment of uncomplicated UTI were selected from the guideline. Barriers to guideline adherence and possible interventions to address these barriers were discussed. The focus group session was audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Barriers were classified according to an existing framework.
Lack of agreement with the recommendations, unavailable and inconvenient materials (i.e. dipslides), and organisational constraints were perceived as barriers for the diagnostic recommendations. Barriers to implementing the treatment recommendations were lack of applicability and organisational constraints related to the availability of drugs in pharmacies. Suggested interventions were to provide small group education to GPs and practice staff members, to improve organisation and coordination of care in out of hour services, to improve the availability of preferred dosages of drugs, and to pilot-test guidelines regionally.
Despite sufficient knowledge of the recommendations on UTI, attitudinal and external barriers made it difficult to follow them in practice. The care concerning UTI could be optimized if these barriers are adequately addressed in implementation strategies. The feasibility and success of these strategies could be improved by involving the target group of the guideline in selecting useful interventions to address the barriers to implementation.
PMCID: PMC2908068  PMID: 20584276
5.  Why don't physicians adhere to guideline recommendations in practice? An analysis of barriers among Dutch general practitioners 
Despite wide distribution and promotion of clinical practice guidelines, adherence among Dutch general practitioners (GPs) is not optimal. To improve adherence to guidelines, an analysis of barriers to implementation is advocated. Because different recommendations within a guideline can have different barriers, in this study we focus on key recommendations rather than guidelines as a whole, and explore the barriers to implementation perceived by Dutch GPs.
A qualitative study using six focus groups was conducted, in which 30 GPs participated, with an average of seven per session. Fifty-six key recommendations were derived from twelve national guidelines. In each focus group, barriers to the implementation of the key recommendations of two clinical practice guidelines were discussed. Focus group discussions were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. Data was analysed by using an existing framework of barriers.
The barriers varied largely within guidelines, with each key recommendation having a unique pattern of barriers. The most perceived barriers were lack of agreement with the recommendations due to lack of applicability or lack of evidence (68% of key recommendations), environmental factors such as organisational constraints (52%), lack of knowledge regarding the guideline recommendations (46%), and guideline factors such as unclear or ambiguous guideline recommendations (43%).
Our study findings suggest a broad range of barriers. As the barriers largely differ within guidelines, tailored and barrier-driven implementation strategies focusing on key recommendations are needed to improve adherence in practice. In addition, guidelines should be more transparent concerning the underlying evidence and applicability, and further efforts are needed to address complex issues such as comorbidity in guidelines. Finally, it might be useful to include focus groups in continuing medical education as an innovative medium for guideline education and implementation.
PMCID: PMC2734568  PMID: 19674440

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