Friday, June 25, 2021

Scholars at 14th GRADE Workshop Discuss the Unique Challenges of Sparse Evidence, Guideline Collaborations, and Financial Incentives in Healthcare

During the 14th GRADE Guideline Development Workshop held virtually last month, the Evidence Foundation had the pleasure of welcoming three new scholars with the opportunity to attend the workshop free of charge. As part of the scholarship, each recipient presented to the workshop attendees about their current or proposed project related to evidence-based medicine and reducing bias in healthcare.

This spring's lot of three scholars was nothing short of incredibly impressive. Ifeoluwa Babatunde, a PhD student in clinical research at Case Western Reserve University, discussed the unique challenges of developing a guideline on the management of patients undergoing patent foramen ovale (PFO) closure for the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions (SCAI). The synthesis of evidence for this question is hampered by controversies and limited evidence as well as complications due to comorbidities and age differences in the populations of interest. Babatunde discussed her interest in attending the workshop to learn more about the appropriate use of observational and indirect evidence to better answer questions related to PFO closure.

"The GRADE workshop helped me to see systematic review methodology from a deeper and more critical perspective," said Babatunde. "GRADE offers a very comprehensive yet succinct and transparent framework for developing and ascertaining the certainty of evidence in guidelines. Hence I feel better equipped to tackle challenges that arise from creating reviews and guidelines regarding conditions and populations with sparse RCTs."

Next, Dr. Pichamol Jirapinyo, the Director of Bariatric Endoscopy Fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School, discussed her work on an international joint guideline development effort between the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE) and the European Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ESGE) to produce recommendations for endoscopic and bariatric metabolic therapy (EBMT) in patients with obesity. EBMT is one of several possible management routes for obesity, alongside pharmacological and surgical options. The project will aim to answer several questions, including how patients should be managed before and after EBMT, and regarding the safety and efficacy of both gastric and small bowel EBMT.

“The GRADE workshop provided me a great framework on how to apply GRADE methodology to systematic review and meta-analysis to rigorously develop a guideline," said Dr. Jirapinyo. 'In addition to learning about the GRADE methodology itself, I found the workshop to be tremendously helpful with providing practical tips on how to run a guideline task force successfully and efficiently.”  

Finally, Dr. Lillian Lai, a research fellow in the Department of Urology at the University of Michigan, presented an intriguing discussion of financial incentives in clinical decision-making in urology. The surveillance and management of localized prostate cancer, for instance, has several different options ranging from active surveillance (which is less costly) to prostatectomy (which is more costly). Regardless of the reported health outcomes of these approaches, there is little financial incentive to conduct surveillance as opposed to surgery. The project's goal is to use health services research methods to understand how urologists response to large financial incentives, and then create financial incentives and remove financial disincentives for the promotion of guideline-concordant practices. 

"I gained invaluable knowledge on how to use the GRADE approach to rate the certainty of evidence and strength of recommendations," said Dr. Lai. "Going through the guideline development tool with experts in small groups was particularly useful for me to understand what a guideline recommendation means and entails. This workshop came at a critical time in the backdrop of COVID, and the ever-changing landscape of medicine where patients and providers need to make timely and informed decisions together."

If you are interested in learning more about GRADE and attending the workshop as a scholarship recipient, applications for our upcoming virtual workshop in October are now open. The deadline to apply is July 31, 2021. Details can be found here.