By Per Olav Vandvik, Anja Fog Heen, Thomas Agoritsas
Some problems with current guidelines
To succeed in evidence-based diagnosis and treatment at the point of care, health care personnel need access to the best current research evidence, for example through trustworthy clinical practice guidelines. Most guidelines suffer from methodological weaknesses (e.g., identification and assessment of research evidence, development of recommendations), suboptimal presentation formats and infrequent updating of content. New standards for trustworthy guidelines and advanced systems for evidence assessment and creating recommendations provide better opportunities to succeed in development of guidelines but also illuminate the demand for methodological competence, clinical expertise and time. Equally important as providing trustworthy content in guidelines is to achieve effective dissemination at the point of care, to allow shared decision-making with patients and to perform timely updates of content.
Solutions through MAGIC
Our insights on current limitations with guidelines has resulted in an urge to provide solutions to current problems with creating, disseminating and updating guidelines. We have operationalized the solutions through what we call the MAking GRADE the Irresistible Choice (MAGIC) research and innovation program and non-profit initiative (1). A key innovation in the MAGIC program is a web-based authoring- and publication-platform (MAGICapp) that allows parallel development and publication of guidelines on the web, in tablets and smartphones, as well as integration of guidelines into electronic health records.
The guideline content is presented to end-users in what we call “top layer formats” that defines the minimum amount of information clinicians need to apply recommendations in practice. This multilayered presentation format has been developed through extensive research in the MAGIC and the DECIDE project (2).
Importantly, the MAGICapp includes structured content of all guideline content in a database based on the PICO questions that underlie all recommendations. Structured guideline content facilitates not only the development and publication of the guidelines but also facilitates dynamic updates of the guidelines on a recommendation per recommendation basis once new evidence emerges.
Decision aids that really promote shared decision-making
Most recommendations in trustworthy guidelines are weak. Weak recommendations reflect a fine balance between benefits and harms of treatment alternatives and implies that clinicians should apply the recommendations in a balanced manner in encounters with individual patients. In such situations shared decision-making - through use of decision aids available through the MAGICapp - may come into play (3). The clinician and patient can together deliberate on treatment options through the use of a decision aid on a tablet computer, designed to create conversations. The decision aid visualizes anticipated benefits, harms and practical issues of the possible treatment alternatives. Our decision aids are based on pioneering work by - and fruitful collaboration with - Dr. Victor Montori and colleagues the Mayo clinic.
What next for MAGIC?
The MAGICapp is available for use for organizations charged with development of guidelines. We are now expanding our scope to include the development of multilayered evidence summaries and decision aids also in the context of trustworthy systematic reviews. We welcome you to test MAGICapp and provide feedback to further improve functionality of the authoring process and publication outputs, to the benefit of clinicians and patients at the point of care.