Two top medical journals have joined together to publish a series on the issues surrounding research into disease prognosis – the likely heath outcomes for people who have a particular disease or condition – in order to help improve the evidence base for the information given to patients about their disease and guide clinical decisions about treatment.
This series is a call to arms for better research to underpin major recent initiatives in health systems around the world. These initiatives include emphasis on measurable health outcomes, rather than just the receipt of care; for example the UK NHS reforms have introduced an Outcomes Framework. And better targeting of treatments to patients who will benefit most. This series identifies bottlenecks in research in each of these areas, and offers ways in which they may be overcome.
Today, PLOS Medicine and the BMJ are each publishing two articles in the PROGRESS series on prognosis research by a team of international researchers from the established PROGRESS group: PLOS Medicine is publishing the second and third articles in the series and the BMJ is publishing the first and fourth articles.
The joint collaboration highlights the importance of this area of research. More people now live with disease and conditions that impair health than at any other time in history and prognosis research provides crucial evidence for translating findings from the laboratory to humans, and from clinical research to clinical practice. Prognosis research also helps understand and improve future outcomes in people with a given disease or health condition but, according to the PROGRESS group, standards in prognosis research needs to be improved.
This authoritative series gives several recommendations for improving research into this important area of clinical decision-making that should ultimately improve outcomes for patients.
For example, in the second article in the series, the PROGRESS group highlights the current problems in the research into prognostic factors (measures that are linked to certain outcomes, which are important for decisions on clinical management) – such as publication bias, reporting biases, poor statistical analyses, and inadequate replication of initial findings – and recommend a way forward.
Professor Harry Hemingway, one of the lead authors of the series, says:
“It is a scandal of medical research that we have not had co-ordinated, sustained programmes of research into how and why diseases progress into the health outcomes that patients, clinicians and policy makers regard as important. This series offers a set of actions to remedy this situation.”
Dr Virginia Barbour, Chief Editor of PLOS Medicine says:
“We are pleased to be publishing this important series in collaboration with the BMJ. This series is the result of substantial collaboration between a number of academics and PLOS Medicine is pleased to have been part of this. We hope that these papers will lead to improvements in the quality of prognosis research, which in turn will lead to more informed decisions about the clinical management of patients with diverse diseases and conditions such as cancer, heart disease and head injuries.”
Links to all four papers are available on the Publications page.