To present an update on the development of oncology practice guidelines (PGs) using the Practice Guidelines Development Cycle (Cycle), and to present the results of surveys of oncologists on the first 10 guidelines from the Cancer Care Ontario Practice Guidelines Initiative.
Practitioners' opinions about guidelines in development were sought using a mail survey method with systematic follow-up. Practitioners were identified by cancer center representatives. Survey packages included evidence-based recommendations (EBRs) and a one-page, nine-item feedback questionnaire. Data were collected between February 1995 and February 1996.
Nine hundred fourteen surveys that pertained to 10 guidelines were mailed to 423 practitioners in Ontario. Practitioners included 112 medical oncologists/hematologists, 34 radiation oncologists, 195 surgeons, and 82 practitioners from other medical specialities. One hundred practitioners were located in cancer centers and 323 had community-based practices. The overall response rate by practitioner was 72% and by survey questionnaire, 70%. For the five questionnaire items that assessed guideline quality, approval ratings ranged from 86% to 92%. For the 10 recommendations, 77% ( 63% to 82%) of respondents agreed that the EBR could be approved as a PG. Response and approval rates were consistent across medical specialities and locations of practice.
The process of obtaining practitioner feedback in the development of PGs is both feasible and useful. The high response rates to the survey indicate that it is possible to obtain broad participation in evidence-based guidelines development throughout Ontario. The changes made to the EBRs in response to feedback suggest that practitioners' opinions can be valuable in shaping evidence-based guidelines.