Objective: The interpretation and clinical application of guidelines can be challenging and time-consuming, which may result in noncompliance to guidelines. The aim of this study was to convert the Dutch guideline for colorectal cancer (CRC) into decision trees and subsequently implement decision trees in an online decision support environment to facilitate guideline application. Methods: The recommendations of the Dutch CRC guidelines (published in 2014) were translated into decision trees consisting of decision nodes, branches and leaves that represent data items, data item values and recommendations, respectively. Decision trees were discussed with experts in the field and published as interactive open access decision support software (available at www.oncoguide.nl). Decision tree validation and a concordance analysis were performed using consecutive reports (January 2016-January 2017) from CRC multidisciplinary tumour boards (MTBs) at Amsterdam University Medical Centers, location AMC. Results: In total, we developed 34 decision trees driven by 101 decision nodes based on the guideline recommendations. Decision trees represented recommendations for diagnostics (n = 1), staging (n = 10), primary treatment (colon: n = 1, rectum: n = 5, colorectal: n = 9), pathology (n = 4) and follow-up (n = 3) and included one overview decision tree for optimal navigation. We identified several guideline information gaps and areas of inconclusive evidence. A total of 158 patients' MTB reports were eligible for decision tree validation and resulted in treatment recommendations in 80% of cases. The concordance rate between decision tree treatment recommendations and MTB advices was 81%. Decision trees reported in 22 out of 24 non-concordant cases (92%) that no guideline recommendation was available. Conclusions: We successfully converted the Dutch CRC guideline into decision trees and identified several information gaps and areas of inconclusive evidence, the latter being the main cause of the observed disagreement between decision tree recommendations and MTB advices. Decision trees may contribute to future strategies to optimize quality of care for CRC patients.
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