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OBJECTIVE: To develop a summary format of clinical practice guideline (CPG) recommendations to improve understandability among health care professionals.
METHODS: We developed a summary format based on current research and used the "Think Aloud" technique in one-on-one cognitive interviews to iteratively improve it. Interviews of health care professionals from Children's Oncology Group-member, National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program sites were conducted. After every five interviews (a round), responses were reviewed, and changes made to the format until it was well understood and no new, substantive suggestions for revision were raised. We took a directed (deductive) approach to content analysis of the interview notes to identify concerns related to recommendation summary usability, understandability, validity, applicability and visual appeal.
RESULTS: During seven rounds of interviews with 33 health care professionals, we identified important factors that influenced understandability. Participants found understanding weak recommendations more challenging than strong recommendations. Understanding was improved when the term 'conditional' recommendation was used instead of 'weak' recommendation. Participants found a Rationale section to be very helpful but desired more information when a recommendation entailed a practice change. In the final format, the recommendation strength is clearly indicated in the title, highlighted, and defined within a text box. The rationale for the recommendation is in a column on the left, with supporting evidence on the right. In a bulleted list, the Rationale section describes the benefits and harms and additional factors, such as implementation, that were considered by the CPG developers. Each bullet under the supporting evidence section indicates the level of evidence with an explanation and the supporting studies with hyperlinks when applicable.
CONCLUSIONS: A summary format to present strong and conditional recommendations was created through an iterative interview process. The format is straightforward, making it easy for organizations and CPG developers to use it to communicate recommendations clearly to intended users.