I’ve got Good News and I’ve got Bad News

26 01 2010

If someone tells you: “I’ve got Good News and I’ve got Bad News”, you probably ask this person: “Well, tell me the bad news first!”

Laika’s MedLibLog has good and bad news for you.

The Bad News is, that this blog didn’t make it to the Finals of the sixth annual Medical Weblog Awards, organized by Medgadget. (see earlier post)

The Good news is that this keeps me from the stress that inevitably comes with following the stats and seeing how your blog is lagging more and more behind. Plus you don’t have to waste time desperately trying to mobilize your husband to just press the *$%# vote button (choosing the right person: me), no matter how many times he says he doesn’t care a bit – (“and wouldn’t it be better to spend less time on blogging anyway?”)

This reminds me of something I’ve tried to suppress, namely that this blog didn’t make it to the shortlists of the Dutch Bloggies 2009 either (see Laika’s MedLibLog on the Longlist of the DutchBloggies!)

The Good news is that many high quality blogs did make it to the finals. Including The Blog that Ate Manhattan, Clinical Cases and Images, Musings of a Distractible Mind (Best Medical Weblog) , other things amanzi (Best Literary Medical Weblog), Allergy Notes, Clinical Cases and Images, Life in the Fast Lane (Best Clinical Sciences Weblog), ScienceRoll (Best Medical Technologies/Informatics Weblog).

Best of all, the superb blog I nominated for Best Medical WeblogDr Shock MD PhD made it to the finals as well!!

But it is hard to understand that blogs like EverythingHealth and Body in Mind with many nominations are not among the finalists. That underlines that contests are very subjective, but so are individual preferences for blogs. It is all in the game.

Anyway you can start voting for your favorite blogs tomorrow. Please have a look at the finalists here at Medgadget, so you can decide who deserves your votes.

Finally I would like to conclude with positive news concerning this blog. This week’s “Cochrane in the news” features the post on Cochrane Evidence Aid. It is on the Cochrane homepage today.

Photo Credit

Best Literary Medical Weblog
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Cochrane Evidence Aid for Catastrophes like Haiti’s Earthquake. “Helping by doing what we do best”

24 01 2010

How it started [1]
2005. December 26th. Someone* working for the Cochrane Collaboration was on the Internet when he accidentally saw the AOL’s home page mentioning a powerful earthquake in the Indian Ocean, triggering a powerful tsunami that swept the coasts of neighboring countries. The story and the horror unfolded over the next hours and days. From the first reports of a few thousand dead to, within a day, a few thousand dead and tens of thousands missing in one part of Indonesia alone.

“What can we do?” he thought “Aid needs evidence on what works and what doesn’t work. It is no good and, worse, might be harmful, to deliver health care that is ineffective. The Cochrane Library already contains several reviews of relevance. There are Cochrane reviews on overcoming the effects of dehydration and the treatment of injuries, both physical and psychological. Those of us who work in the production of evidence can, therefore, deliver our own form of aid: information. The provision of reliable information on the effects of health care is the way that many of us can contribute to alleviating its effects. We need to recognize the privileged position that we are in: we can help by doing what we do best.”[1]

As reader of this blog, you probably know that the Cochrane Collaboration (http://www.cochrane.org/) is an international not-for-profit and independent organization, dedicated to making up-to-date, accurate information about the effects of healthcare readily available worldwide. It produces and disseminates systematic reviews of healthcare interventions  in the Cochrane Library, which is available through subscription. The information on which these are based is drawn together collaboratively by a global network of dedicated volunteers, supported by a small staff.

Evidence Aid: what it is and what it does. [2, 3, 4, 5]
That Christmas, the idea was born to set up “Evidence Aid”.
A working party was established early January 2005 of people in the region and elsewhere.  Emails were send to people from the affected countries to express sympathy and support, and to ask for suggestions on how The Cochrane Collaboration might help.

Then, a list of over 200 interventions relevant to health care in the aftermath of the tsunami was made in consultation with all Cochrane entities, Cochrane members from affected countries, and members of other agencies such as the World Health Organization, Oxfam (one of the main UK charities working in the region), and the publishers of BMJ’s Clinical Evidence (http://clinicalevidence.com).

A prioritization was made, and subsequently lists were made of topics for which up-to-date Cochrane reviews were available and lists for which reviews were not yet available (see updated lists of  available and not currently available topics).

Concise summaries of evidence on the priority topics were offered in one place with “one-click” access to all contents, available free of charge (http://www.cochrane.org/docs/tsunamiresp​onse, now changed into http://www.cochrane.org/evidenceaid/index.htm)

The summaries link to the full evidence, which is already available on the Cochrane Library. If a summary is not currently available but there is a relevant Cochrane review in the Cochrane Library, a link takes people straight to that review. If a suitable Cochrane review is not available, links are included to other identified sources of evidence, in particular, to topics in Clinical Evidence .

In addition The Cochrane Library (http://www.thecochranelibrary.org) was made freely available in the effected countries for a six-month period. (This was before the Cochrane Library became freely available in India through funding)

Evidence matters, an example [4,5,6]
One helpful Cochrane Review was the Cochrane systematic review on the effects of brief “debriefing” [6], which is a procedure aimed to reduce immediate psychological distress and to prevent the subsequent development of psychological disorders, notably Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The review shows that this strategy is unlikely to be helpful and may even be harmful and cause an increase in PTSD.
After the tsunami, many teams of well-meaning people rushed to one of the worst hit areas in India, offering brief debriefing to survivors in each village, and then rushing on to the next of the 93 tsunami-affected villages in the district. Prathap Tharyan, Professor of Psychiatry and Coordinator of the South Asian Cochrane Network, found the relevant Cochrane review on debriefing and urged that this type of single session debriefing should not be provided. This message was incorporated into the content of counselor training workshops, along with evidence for interventions supported by the results of systematic reviews and other high quality research.[5]

Evidence Aid for Haiti [7]
After the tsunami it was decided to continue with Evidence Aid in natural disasters and other healthcare emergencies, drawing on knowledge gathered.

Tweets of @cochranecollab about various Evidence Aid Reviews for Haiti

Following the devastating earthquake in Haiti, The Cochrane Collaboration is working with colleagues in the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Centre for Reviews & Dissemination (UK), Cochrane Review Groups and others to identify Cochrane reviews and other systematic reviews of immediate importance. These, along with available Evidence Update summaries, were made available in a special Evidence Aid collection on Cochrane.org on 15 January, and have been shared with WHO and PAHO.

The information has been translated into French (thanks to the Cochrane Francophone Network) and Spanish (thanks to the Iberoamerican Cochrane Centre). At the moment, the collection includes reviews from several Cochrane Review Groups, including the Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group; Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Group; Infectious Diseases Group; Injuries Group; Renal Group and Wounds Group. [7]

Access to Evidence Aid resources for Haiti: The summaries are available at http://www.cochrane.org/evidenceaid/haiti/index.html and The Cochrane Library is freely available in the region through a variety of means. One is the Biblioteca Cochrane Plus via the Virtual Health Library BIREME interface (in English, Spanish or Portuguese).  Also, the PDF versions of all the highlighted Cochrane reviews are now available free to all on The Cochrane Library website.[7]

Is this enough?[4]
A PLOS article on Evidence Aids in 2005 already concluded: “No, not nearly enough”.[4]

Not all topics on the list have been covered by an up-to-date, good-quality systematic review. And, similar as in 2005, not all reviews have conclusions that can guide practice, because of a lack of relevant good-quality studies. After all, reviews are only as good as the studies they review. Therefore it is important to fill the gaps with good quality reviews and new practical trials on the most urgent topics.
Although things have certainly changed, i.e. more topics are now covered, there still remains room for further improvement.

If you would like to suggest additional material not yet covered, please contact Mike Clarke (mclarke@cochrane.ac.uk). You can also contribute to Evidence aid in other ways.

* This person signed the Gem [1] with “Insider”. It is not difficult to gather that the Insider is Mike Clarke, professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Oxford, director of the UK Cochrane Centre and convenor of the working group which has set up the initiative.

Afterword: Last Monday, tweets mentioning Cochrane Evidence Aid topics appeared in my twitterstream (see Fig). As I was not profoundly familiar with this initiative, I wanted to gain more knowledge about it and summarize my findings in a post. I’m thankful to Mike Clarke and Nick Royle for instantly responding to my request for more information and Mike in particular for sending me the draft he compiled for CC-info [7] and an older cochrane gem [1], that explained how Evidence Aid arose.
Disclaimer: I’m employed as a Trial Search Coordinator of the Dutch Cochrane Centre for one day per week. The opinions expressed at this blog, however, are my own.

References:

  1. Cochrane Gem for week commencing 4 January 2005, written by “Insider”. Gems are weekly highlights one of new reviews or sometimes important news. Gems are available at the CKS database here.
  2. http://news.cochrane.org/view/item/review_one.jsp?j=177 assessed 24-01-2010
  3. Lynn Eaton (2005) Evidence based research for coping in emergencies goes online BMJ 330(7497):926 (23 April), doi:10.1136/bmj.330.7497.926-a
  4. Tharyan P, Clarke M, Green S (2005) How the Cochrane Collaboration Is Responding to the Asian Tsunami. PLoS Med 2(6): e169. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020169
  5. World Health Organization (2005) Three months after the Indian Ocean earthquake-tsunami: Health consequences and WHO’s response. Available: http://www.who.int/hac/crises/internatio​nal/asia_tsunami/3months/en/index.html . Accessed 24-01-2010.
  6. Rose SC, Bisson J, Churchill R, Wessely S. Psychological debriefing for preventing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD000560. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000560. Edited (no change to conclusions), published in Issue 1, 2009.
  7. Draft written for CC-INFO (January 21, 2010) by Mike Clarke. It will become available at the CC-info archive.
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Role of Consumer Networks in Evidence Based Health Information

11 11 2009

Guest author: Janet Wale
member of the Cochrane Consumer Network

People are still struggling with evidence or modern medicine – clinicians, patients, health consumers, carers and the public alike. Part of this is because we always thought medicine was based on quality research, or evidence. It is not only that. For evidence to be used most effectively in healthcare systems researchers, clinicians and ‘the existing or potential patients and carers’ have to communicate and resonate with each other – to share knowledge and responsibilities both in developing the evidence and in individual decision making. On the broader population level, this may include consultation but is best achieved by developing partnerships.

The Cochrane Collaboration develops a large number of the published systematic reviews of best evidence on healthcare interventions, available electronically on The Cochrane Library. Systematic reviews are integral to the collation of evidence to inform clinical practice guidelines. They are also an integral part of health technology assessments, where the cost-effectiveness of healthcare interventions is determined for a particular health system.

With the availability of the Internet we are able to readily share information. We are also acutely aware of disadvantage for many of the World’s populations. What this has meant is pooled efforts. Now we have not only the World Health Organization but also The Cochrane Collaboration, Guidelines International Network, and Health Technology Assessment International. What is common among these organizations? They involve the users of health care, including patients, consumers and carers. The latter three organizations have a formal consumer/patient and citizen group that informs their work. In this way we work to make the evidence relevant, accessible and being used. We all have to be discerning whatever knowledge we are given and apply it to ourselves.

This is  a short post on request.
It also appeared as a comment at:
http://e-patients.net/archives/2009/11/tell-the-fda-the-whole-story-please.html

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#Cochrane Colloquium 2009: Better Working Relationship between Cochrane and Guideline Developers

19 10 2009

singapore CCLast week I attended the annual Cochrane Colloquium in Singapore. I will summarize some of the meetings.

Here is a summary of an interesting (parallel) special session: Creating a closer working relationship between Cochrane and Guideline Developers. This session was brought together as a partnership between the Guidelines International Network (G-I-N) and The Cochrane Collaboration to look at the current experience of guideline developers and their use of Cochrane reviews (see abstract).

Emma Tavender of the EPOC Australian Satellite, Australia reported on the survey carried out by the UK Cochrane Centre to identify the use of Cochrane reviews in guidelines produced in the UK ) (not attended this presentation) .

Pwee Keng Ho, Ministry of Health, Singapore, is leading the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) and guideline development program of the Singapore Ministry of Health. He spoke about the issues faced as a guideline developer using Cochrane reviews or -in his own words- his task was: “to summarize whether guideline developers like Cochrane Systematic reviews or not” .

Keng Ho presented the results of 3 surveys of different guideline developers. Most surveys had very few respondents: 12-29 if I remember it well.

Each survey had approximately the same questions, but in a different order. On the face of it, the 3 surveys gave the same picture.

Main points:

  • some guideline developers are not familiar with Cochrane Systematic Reviews
  • others have no access to it.
  • of those who are familiar with the Cochrane Reviews and do have access to it, most found the Cochrane reviews useful and reliable. (in one survey half of the respondents were neutral)
  • most importantly they actually did use the Cochrane reviews for most of their guidelines.
  • these guideline developers also used the Cochrane methodology to make their guidelines (whereas most physicians are not inclined to use the exhaustive search strategies and systematic approach of the Cochrane Collaboration)
  • An often heard critique of Guideline developers concerned the non-comprehensive coverage of topics by Cochrane Reviews. However, unlike in Western countries, the Singapore minister of Health mentioned acupuncture and herbs as missing topics (for certain diseases).

This incomplete coverage caused by a not-demand driven choice of subjects was a recurrent topic at this meeting and a main issue recognized by the entire Cochrane Community. Therefore priority setting of Cochrane Systematic reviews is one of the main topics addressed at this Colloquium and in the Cochrane Strategic review.

Kay Dickersin of the US Cochrane Center, USA, reported on the issues raised at the stakeholders meeting held in June 2009 in the US (see here for agenda) on whether systematic reviews can effectively inform guideline development, with a particular focus on areas of controversy and debate.

The Stakeholder summit concentrated on using quality SR’s for guidelines. This is different from effectiveness research, for which the Institute of Medicine (IOM) sets the standards: local and specialist guidelines require a different expertise and approach.

All kinds of people are involved in the development of guidelines, i.e. nurses, consumers, physicians.
Important issues to address, point by point:

  • Some may not understand the need to be systematic
  • How to get physicians on board: they are not very comfortable with extensive searching and systematic work
  • Ongoing education, like how-to workshops, is essential
  • What to do if there is no evidence?
  • More transparency; handling conflicts of interest
  • Guidelines differ, including the rating of the evidence. Almost everyone in the Stakeholders meeting used GRADE to grade the evidence, but not as it was originally described. There were numerous variations on the same theme. One question is whether there should be one system or not.
  • Another -recurrent- issue was that Guidelines should be made actionable.

Here are podcasts covering the meeting

Gordon Guyatt, McMaster University, Canada, gave  an outline of the GRADE approach and the purpose of ‘Summary of Findings’ tables, and how both are perceived by Cochrane review authors and guideline developers.

Gordon Guyatt, whose magnificent book ” Users’ Guide to the Medical Literature”  (JAMA-Evidence) lies at my desk, was clearly in favor of adherence to the original Grade-guidelines. Forty organizations have adopted these Grade Guidelines.

Grade stands for “Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation”  system. It is used for grading evidence when submitting a clinical guidelines article. Six articles in the BMJ are specifically devoted to GRADE (see here for one (full text); and 2 (PubMed)). GRADE not only takes the rigor of the methods  into account, but also the balance between the benefits and the risks, burdens, and costs.

Suppose  a guideline would recommend  to use thrombolysis to treat disease X, because a good quality small RCTs show thrombolysis to be slightly but significantly more effective than heparin in this disease. However by relying on only direct evidence from the RCT’s it isn’t taken into account that observational studies have long shown that thrombolysis enhances the risk of massive bleeding in diseases Y and Z. Clearly the risk of harm is the same in disease X: both benefits and harms should be weighted.
Guyatt gave several other examples illustrating the importance of grading the evidence and the understandable overview presented in the Summary of Findings Table.

Another issue is that guideline makers are distressingly ready to embrace surrogate endpoints instead of outcomes that are more relevant to the patient. For instance it is not very meaningful if angiographic outcomes are improved, but mortality or the recurrence of cardiovascular disease are not.
GRADE takes into account if indirect evidence is used: It downgrades the evidence rating.  Downgrading also occurs in case of low quality RCT’s or the non-trade off of benefits versus harms.

Guyatt pleaded for uniform use of GRADE, and advised everybody to get comfortable with it.

Although I must say that it can feel somewhat uncomfortable to give absolute rates to non-absolute differences. These are really man-made formulas, people agreed upon. On the other hand it is a good thing that it is not only the outcome of the RCT’s with respect to benefits (of sometimes surrogate markers) that count.

A final remark of Guyatt: ” Everybody makes the claim they are following evidence based approach, but you have to learn them what that really means.”
Indeed, many people talk about their findings and/or recommendations being evidence based, because “EBM sells well”, but upon closer examination many reports are hardly worth the name.

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Cochrane 2.0 Workshop at the Cochrane Colloquium #CC2009

12 10 2009

Today Chris Mavergames and I held a workshop at the Cochrane Colloquium, entitled:  Web 2.0 for Cochrane (see previous post and abstract of the workshop)

First I gave an introduction into Medicine 2.0 and (thus) Web 2.0. Chris, Web Operations Manager and Information Architect of the Cochrane Collaboration, talked more about which Web 2.0 tools were already used by the Cochrane Collaboration and which Web 2.0 might be useful as such.

We had half an hour for discussion which was easily filled. There was no doubt about the usefulness of Web 2.0 for the Cochrane in this group. Therefore, there was ample room for discussing technical aspects, like:

  • Can you load your RSS feed of a PubMed search in Reference Manager? (According to Chris you can)
  • How can you deal with this lot of information (by following a specific subject, or not too much people – not many updates on a daily basis; you don’t have to follow it all, just pick up the headlines, when you can)
  • Are you involved in a Wiki that is successful? (it appears very difficult to involve people)
  • What happens if people comment or upload picture on facebook (of the Cochrane collaboration) in an appropriate way (Chris: didn’t happen, but you have to check and remove them)
  • How do you follow tweets (we showed Tweetdeckhashtags # and #followfridays)
  • What is the worst thing that happened to you (regarding web 2.0)? Chris and I thought a long time. Chris: that I revealed something that wasn’t officially public yet (though appeared to be o.k.). Me: spam (but I remove it/don’t approve it).
    Later I remembered two better (worse) examples, like the “Clinical Reader” social misbehaviour, a good example of how “branding” should not be done, and sites that publish top 50 and 100 list of bloggers just to get more traffic to their spam websites

Below is my presentation on Slideshare.

The (awful) green blackgound color indicates I went “live” on the web. As a reminder of what I did, I included some screendumps.

The current workshop was just meant to introduce and discuss Medicine 2.0 and Cochrane 2.0.

I hope we have a vivid discussion Wednesday when the plenary lectures deal with Cochrane 2.0.

The answers to my question on Twitter

  1. Why Web 2.0 is useful? (or not)
  2. Why we need Cochrane 2.0? (or not)

can be found on Visibletweets (temporary) and saved as: Quoteurl.com/sggq0 (permanent selection).

I think it would be good when these points are taken into account during the Cochrane 2.0 plenary discussions.

* possible WIKI (+ links) might appear at http://medicine20.wetpaint.com/page/Cochrane+2.0

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This week I will blog from…..

10 10 2009

35167809 singapore colloquiumPicture taken by Chris Mavergames http://twitpic.com/kxrnl

Chris and I will facilitate a web 2.0 workshop for the Cochrane (see here, for all workshops see here).
The entire program can be viewed at the Cochrane Colloquium site.

Chris Mavergames, Web Operations Manager and Information Architect of the Cochrane Collaboration will also give a plenary presentation entitled:
Cochrane for the Twitter generation:
inserting ourselves into the ‘conversation
‘”.

The session has the promising title: The Cochrane Library – brave new world?

Here is the introductory text of the session:

The Cochrane Collaboration is not unique in facing a considerable challenge to the way it packages and disseminates healthcare information. The proliferation of communication platforms and social networking sites provides opportunities to reach new audiences, but how far can or should the Collaboration go in embracing these new media? In this session we hear from speakers who are at the heart of the discussions about The Cochrane Library’s future direction, including the Library’s Editor in Chief. We finish the session with reflections on the week’s discussions with respect to the Strategic Review (…)

Request (for the workshop, not the plenary session):
If you ‘re on Twitter, could you please tell the participants of the (small) web 2.0 workshop  your opinion on the following, using the hashtag #CC20.
*

  1. Why Web 2.0 is useful? (or not)
  2. Why we need Cochrane 2.0? (or not)

An example of such an answer (from @Berci):

#CC20 Web 2.0 opens up the world and eases communication. Cochrane 2.0 is needed bc such an important database should have a modern platform

If you don’t have Twitter you can add your comment here and I will post it for you (if you leave a name).

Thanks for all who have contributed so far.

—–

*this is only for our small-scaled workshop, I propose to use #CC2009 for the conference itself.

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