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1.  Improving question formulation for use in evidence appraisal in a tertiary care setting: a randomised controlled trial [ISRCTN66375463] 
The specificity of clinical questions is gauged by explicit descriptions of four dimensions: subjects, interventions, comparators and outcomes of interest. This study determined whether adding simple instructions and examples on clinical question formulation would increase the specificity of the submitted question compared to using a standard form without instructions and examples.
A randomised controlled trial was conducted in an evidence-search and appraisal service. New participants were invited to reformulate clinical queries. The Control Group was given no instructions. The Intervention Group was given a brief explanation of proper formulation, written instructions, and diagrammatic examples. The primary outcome was the change in the proportion of reformulated questions that described each the dimensions of specificity.
Fifty-two subjects agreed to participate in the trial of which 13 were lost to follow-up. The remaining 17 Intervention Group and 22 Control Group participants were analysed. Baseline characteristics were comparable. Overall, 20% of initially submitted questions from both groups were properly specified (defined as an explicit statement describing all dimensions of specificity). On follow-up, 7/14 questions previously rated as mis-specified in the Intervention Group had all dimensions described at follow-up (p = 0.008) while the Control Group did not show any changes from baseline. Participants in the Intervention Group were also more likely to explicitly describe patients (p = 0.028), comparisons (p = 0.014), and outcomes (p = 0.008).
This trial demonstrated the positive impact of specific instructions on the proportion of properly-specified clinical queries. The evaluation of the long-term impact of such changes is an area of continued research.
PMCID: PMC59901  PMID: 11716797
2.  A systematic review of the diagnostic accuracy of physical examination for the detection of cirrhosis 
We conducted a review of the diagnostic accuracy of clinical examination for the diagnosis of cirrhosis. The objectives were: to identify studies assessing the accuracy of clinical examination in the detection of cirrhosis; to summarize the diagnostic accuracy of reported physical examination findings; and to define the effects of study characteristics on estimates of diagnostic accuracy.
Studies were identified through electronic literature search of MEDLINE (1966 to 2000), search of bibliographic references, and contact with authors. Studies that evaluated indicants from physical examination of patients with known or suspected liver disease undergoing liver biopsy were included. Qualitative data on study characteristics were extracted. Two-by-two tables of presence or absence of physical findings for patients with and without cirrhosis were created from study data. Data for physical findings reported in each study were combined using Summary Receiver Operating Characteristic (SROC) curves or random effects modeling, as appropriate.
Twelve studies met inclusion criteria, including a total of 1895 patients, ranging in age from 3 to 90 years. Most studies were conducted in referral populations with elevated aminotransferase levels. Ten physical signs were reported in three or more studies and ten signs in only a single study. Signs for which there was more study data were associated with high specificity (range 75–98%), but low sensitivity (range 15–68%) for histologically-proven cirrhosis.
Physical findings are generally of low sensitivity for the diagnosis of cirrhosis, and signs with higher specificity represent decompensated disease. Most studies have been undertaken in highly selected populations.
PMCID: PMC64783  PMID: 11806763
3.  Clinical outcomes resulting from telemedicine interventions: a systematic review 
The use of telemedicine is growing, but its efficacy for achieving comparable or improved clinical outcomes has not been established in many medical specialties. The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate the efficacy of telemedicine interventions for health outcomes in two classes of application: home-based and office/hospital-based.
Data sources for the study included deports of studies from the MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and HealthSTAR databases; searching of bibliographies of review and other articles; and consultation of printed resources as well as investigators in the field. We included studies that were relevant to at least one of the two classes of telemedicine and addressed the assessment of efficacy for clinical outcomes with data of reported results. We excluded studies where the service did not historically require face-to-face encounters (e.g., radiology or pathology diagnosis). All included articles were abstracted and graded for quality and direction of the evidence.
A total of 25 articles met inclusion criteria and were assessed. The strongest evidence for the efficacy of telemedicine in clinical outcomes comes from home-based telemedicine in the areas of chronic disease management, hypertension, and AIDS. The value of home glucose monitoring in diabetes mellitus is conflicting. There is also reasonable evidence that telemedicine is comparable to face-to-face care in emergency medicine and is beneficial in surgical and neonatal intensive care units as well as patient transfer in neurosurgery.
Despite the widespread use of telemedicine in virtually all major areas of health care, evidence concerning the benefits of its use exists in only a small number of them. Further randomized controlled trials must be done to determine where its use is most effective.
PMCID: PMC60664  PMID: 11737882
4.  Computerized clinical documentation system in the pediatric intensive care unit 
To determine whether a computerized clinical documentation system (CDS): 1) decreased time spent charting and increased time spent in patient care; 2) decreased medication errors; 3) improved clinical decision making; 4) improved quality of documentation; and/or 5) improved shift to shift nursing continuity.
Before and after implementation of CDS, a time study involving nursing care, medication delivery, and normalization of serum calcium and potassium values was performed. In addition, an evaluation of completeness of documentation and a clinician survey of shift to shift reporting were also completed. This was a modified one group, pretest-posttest design.
With the CDS there was: improved legibility and completeness of documentation, data with better accessibility and accuracy, no change in time spent in direct patient care or charting by nursing staff. Incidental observations from the study included improved management functions of our nurse manager; improved JCAHO documentation compliance; timely access to clinical data (labs, vitals, etc); a decrease in time and resource use for audits; improved reimbursement because of the ability to reconstruct lost charts; limited human data entry by automatic data logging; eliminated costs of printing forms. CDS cost was reasonable.
When compared to a paper chart, the CDS provided a more legible, compete, and accessible patient record without affecting time spent in direct patient care. The availability of the CDS improved shift to shift reporting. Other observations showed that the CDS improved management capabilities; helped physicians deliver care; improved reimbursement; limited data entry errors; and reduced costs.
PMCID: PMC57982  PMID: 11604105
5.  Identifying patient preferences for communicating risk estimates: A descriptive pilot study 
Patients increasingly seek more active involvement in health care decisions, but little is known about how to communicate complex risk information to patients. The objective of this study was to elicit patient preferences for the presentation and framing of complex risk information.
To accomplish this, eight focus group discussions and 15 one-on-one interviews were conducted, where women were presented with risk data in a variety of different graphical formats, metrics, and time horizons. Risk data were based on a hypothetical woman's risk for coronary heart disease, hip fracture, and breast cancer, with and without hormone replacement therapy. Participants' preferences were assessed using likert scales, ranking, and abstractions of focus group discussions.
Forty peri- and postmenopausal women were recruited through hospital fliers (n = 25) and a community health fair (n = 15). Mean age was 51 years, 50% were non-Caucasian, and all had completed high school. Bar graphs were preferred by 83% of participants over line graphs, thermometer graphs, 100 representative faces, and survival curves. Lifetime risk estimates were preferred over 10 or 20-year horizons, and absolute risks were preferred over relative risks and number needed to treat.
Although there are many different formats for presenting and framing risk information, simple bar charts depicting absolute lifetime risk were rated and ranked highest overall for patient preferences for format.
PMCID: PMC55342  PMID: 11545684
6.  The health care information directive 
Developments in information technology promise to revolutionise the delivery of health care by providing access to data in a timely and efficient way. Information technology also raises several important concerns about the confidentiality and privacy of health data. New and existing legislation in Europe and North America may make access to patient level data difficult with consequent impact on research and health surveillance. Although research is being conducted on technical solutions to protect the privacy of personal health information, there is very little research on ways to improve individuals power over their health information. This paper proposes a health care information directive, analogous to an advance directive, to facilitate choices regarding health information disclosure.
Results and Discussion
A health care information directive is described which creates a decision matrix that combines the ethical appropriateness of the use of personal health information with the sensitivity of the data. It creates a range of possibilities with in which individuals can choose to contribute health information with or without consent, or not to contribute information at all.
The health care information directive may increase individuals understanding of the uses of health information and increase their willingness to contribute certain kinds of health information. Further refinement and evaluation of the directive is required.
PMCID: PMC32178  PMID: 11331535

Results 1-6 (6)