The objective of the study was to identify the critical factors that determine recommendations and other decisions about healthcare-related tests and diagnostic strategies (HCTDS).
We used a qualitative descriptive approach and conducted semi-structured in-depth interviews with 24 international experts (informants) in evidence and decisions about HCTDS.
Although test accuracy (TA) was the factor most commonly considered by organizations when developing recommendations about HCTDS, informants agreed that TA is necessary but rarely, if ever, sufficient and may be misleading when solely considered. The informants identified factors that are important for developing recommendations about HCTDS. Informants largely agreed that laying out the potential care pathways based on the test result is an essential early step but is rarely done in developing recommendations about HCTDS. Most informants also agreed that decision analysis could be useful for organizing the clinical, cost, and preference data relevant to the use of tests in the absence of direct evidence. However, they noted that using models is limited by the lack of resources and expertise required.
Developing guidelines about HCTDS requires consideration of factors beyond TA, but implementing this may be challenging. Further development and testing of “frameworks” that can guide this process is a priority for decision makers.