Introduction. Clinical decision support tools available at the point of care are an effective adjunct to support clinicians to make clinical decisions and improve patient outcomes. We developed a methodology and applied it to evaluate commercially available online clinical diagnostic decision support (DDS) tools for use at the point of care.
Methods. We identified 11 commercially available DDS tools and assessed these against an evaluation instrument that included 6 categories; general information, content, quality control, search, clinical results and other features. We developed diagnostically challenging clinical case scenarios based on real patient experience that were commonly missed by junior medical staff. The evaluation was divided into 2 phases; an initial evaluation of all identified and accessible DDS tools conducted by the Clinical Information Access Portal (CIAP) team and a second phase that further assessed the top 3 tools identified in the initial evaluation phase. An evaluation panel consisting of senior and junior medical clinicians from NSW Health conducted the second phase.
Results. Of the eleven tools that were assessed against the evaluation instrument only 4 tools completely met the DDS definition that was adopted for this evaluation and were able to produce a differential diagnosis. From the initial phase of the evaluation 4 DDS tools scored 70% or more (maximum score 96%) for the content category, 8 tools scored 65% or more (maximum 100%) for the quality control category, 5 tools scored 65% or more (maximum 94%) for the search category, and 4 tools score 70% or more (maximum 81%) for the clinical results category. The second phase of the evaluation was focused on assessing diagnostic accuracy for the top 3 tools identified in the initial phase. Best Practice ranked highest overall against the 6 clinical case scenarios used. Overall the differentiating factor between the top 3 DDS tools was determined by diagnostic accuracy ranking, ease of use and the confidence and credibility of the clinical information.
Conclusions. The evaluation methodology used here to assess the quality and comprehensiveness of clinical DDS tools was effective in identifying the most appropriate tool for the clinical setting. The use of clinical case scenarios is fundamental in determining the diagnostic accuracy and usability of the tools.