This is the second post in the series Cochrane Colloquium (CC) 2008.
In the previous post, I mentioned a very interesting opening session.
Here I will summarize one of the presentations in that opening session, i.e. the presentation by Pekka Mustonen, called:
Connecting patients to the best-evidence through technology: An effective solution or “the great seduction”?
Pekka essentially showed us what the Finnish have achieved with their Duodecim database.
Duodecim was started as a health portal for professionals only. It is a database (a decision support system) made by doctors for doctors. It contains Evidence Base (EBM) Guidelines with:
- regularly updated recommendations
- links to evidence, including guidelines and Cochrane Systematic Reviews
Busy Clinicians don’t have the time to perform an extensive search to find the best available evidence each time they have a clinical question. Ideally, they only would have to carry out one search, taking not more than one minute to find the right information.
This demand seems to be reasonably met by Duodecim.
Notably, Duodecim is not only very popular as a source for clinicians ànd nurses, the guidelines are also read and followed by them. Those familiar with healthcare know that this is the main obstacle: getting doctors and nurses to actually use the guidelines.
According to Pekka, patients are even more important than doctors to implement guidelines: Half of the patients don’t seem to follow their doctor’s advice. If the advice is to keep on inhaled steroids for long-term management for asthma, many patients won’t follow that advice, for instance. “When you reach patients, small changes can have large benefits”, he said.
However, although many patients rely on internet to find health information, formal health information sites face fierce competition on Internet. It is difficult for consumers to separate chaff from wheat:
Still, Duodecim has managed to make a website for the general public that is now as popular as the original physicians database is for doctors, the only difference being that doctors use the database continuously, whereas the general public just consults the database when they are confronted with a health problem.
The database contains 1000 EBM key articles, where the content is integrated with personal health records. The site looks rather straightforward, not glitzy nor flashy. Intentionally, in order to look like a serious and trustworthy professional health care site.
A survey revealed that Duodecim performed a lot better than Google in answering health care questions, and does lead to more people either deciding NOT to consult a physician (because they are reassured), or deciding to consult one (because the symptoms might be more serious than thought). Thus it can make a difference!
The results are communicated differently to patients compared to doctors. For instance, whether it is useful to wear stockings during long-haul flights to prevent deep venous thrombosis in patients that have either a low or a high risk for thrombosis is explained to the physician in terms of RR, ARR, RRR and NNT.
Patients see a table with red (high risk patients) and green columns (low risk patients). Conclusions will be translated as follows:
If 1000 patients with a low risk for DVT wear stockings on long-haul flights
- 9 will avoid it
- 1 will get it
- 1 out of 1000 (will get it)
- 990 use stocking in vain
If 1000 patients at high risk for DVT wear stockings on long-haul flights:
- 27 will avoid it
- 3 will get it
- 1 out of 333 (will get it)
- 970 use stocking in vain
This database will be integrated with permanent health records and virtual health checks. It is also linked to a tv program with the aim of changing the way of living. Online you can do a life expectancy test to see what age you would reach if you continue your life style as you do (compare “je echte leeftijd”, “your real age”[dutch]).
“What young people don’t realize”, Pekka said, is that most older people find that the best of life starts at the age of 60(?!) Thus, it doesn’t end at 30, as most youngsters think. But young people will only notice, when they reach old age in good health. To do this, they must change their habits already when young.
The Finnish database is for free for Finnish people.
Quite coincidentally (asking for a free usb-stick at the Wiley stand ;) ) I found out that Wiley’s database EBM Guidelines links to the Duodecim platform (see below). Quite interesting to take a trial, I think.
(Although this presumably is only the professional part of Duodecim, thus not the patient oriented database.)