Clinical practice guidelines should be based on the best scientific evidence derived from systematic reviews of primary research. However, these studies often do not provide evidence needed by guideline development groups to evaluate the tradeoffs between benefits and harms. In this article, the authors identify 4 areas where models can bridge the gaps between published evidence and the information needed for guideline development applying new or updated information on disease risk, diagnostic test properties, and treatment efficacy; exploring a more complete array of alternative intervention strategies; assessing benefits and harms over a lifetime horizon; and projecting outcomes for the conditions for which the guideline is intended. The use of modeling as an approach to bridge these gaps (provided that the models are high-quality and adequately validated) is considered. Colorectal and breast cancer screening are used as examples to show the utility of models for these purposes. The authors propose that a modeling study is most useful when strong primary evidence is available to inform the model but critical gaps remain between the evidence and the questions that the guideline group must address. In these cases, model results have a place alongside the findings of systematic reviews to inform health care practice and policy.
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© 2014 American College of Physicians