Reviewing Clinical Guideline Development Tools: Features and Characteristics
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Background To improve consistency and streamline development and publication of clinical guidelines (GL), there is a need for appropriate software support. We have found few specific tools for the actual authoring and maintaining of GLs, and correspondingly few analyses or reviews of GL development tool functionality. In order to assist GL developers in selecting and evaluating tools, this study tries to address the perceived gap by pursuing four goals: 1) identifying available tools, 2) reviewing a representative group of tools and their supported functionalities, 3) uncovering themes of features that the studied tools support, and 4) compare the selected tools with respect to the themes. Methods We conducted a literature search using PubMed and Google Scholar in order to find GL development tools (GDT). We also explored tools and Content Management Systems (CMS) used in representative organisations and international communities that develop and maintain GLs. By reading a selected representative group of five GL tool manuals, exploring tools hands-on, we uncovered 8 themes of features. All found tools were compared according to these themes in order to identify the level of functionality they offer to support the GL development and publishing process. In order to limit the scope, tools for designing computer-interpretable/executable GL are excluded. Results After finding 1552 published papers, contacting 7 organizations and international communities, we identified a total of 19 unique tools, of which 5 tools were selected as representative in this paper. We uncovered a total of 8 themes of features according to the identified functionalities that each tool provides. Four features were common among tools: Collaborative authoring process support, user access control, GL repository management, electronic publishing. We found that the GRADE methodology was supported by three of the reviewed tools, while only two tools support annotating GL with MeSH terms. We also identified that monitoring progress, reference management, Managing versions (version control), and Change control (tracking) were often the missing features. Conclusion The results can promote sector discussion and eventual agreement on important tool functionality. It may aid tool and GL developers towards more efficient, and effective, GL authoring.