Towards a goal-oriented methodology for clinical-guideline-based management recommendations for patients with multimorbidity: GoCom and its preliminary evaluation

Alexandra Kogan, Mor Peleg, Samson W. Tu, Raviv Allon, Natanel Khaitov, Irit Hochberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patients with chronic multimorbidity are becoming more common as life expectancy increases, making it necessary for physicians to develop complex management plans. We are looking at the patient management process as a goal-attainment problem. Hence, our aim is to develop a goal-oriented methodology for providing decision support for managing patients with multimorbidity continuously, as the patient's health state is progressing and new goals arise (e.g., treat ulcer, prevent osteoporosis). Our methodology allows us to detect and mitigate inconsistencies among guideline recommendations stemming from multiple clinical guidelines, while consulting medical ontologies and terminologies and relying on patient information standards. This methodology and its implementation as a decision-support system, called GoCom, starts with computer-interpretable clinical guidelines (CIGs) for single problems that are formalized using the PROforma CIG language. We previously published the architecture of the system as well as a CIG elicitation guide for enriching PROforma tasks with properties referring to vocabulary codes of goals and physiological effects of management plans. In this paper, we provide a formalization of the conceptual model of GoCom that generates, for each morbidity of the patient, a patient-specific goal tree that results from the PROforma engine's enactment of the CIG with the patient's data. We also present the “Controller” algorithm that drives the GoCom system. Given a new problem that a patient develops, the Controller detects inconsistencies among goals pertaining to different comorbid problems and consults the CIGs to generate alternative non-conflicted and goal-oriented management plans that address the multiple goals simultaneously. In this stage of our research, the inconsistencies that can be detected are of two types – starting vs. stopping medications that belong to the same medication class hierarchy, and detecting opposing physiological effect goals that are specified in concurrent CIGs (e.g., decreased blood pressure vs. increased blood pressure). However, the design of GoCom is modular and generic and allows the future introduction of additional interaction detection and mitigation strategies. Moreover, GoCom generates explanations of the alternative non-conflicted management plans, based on recommendations stemming from the clinical guidelines and reasoning patterns. GoCom's functionality was evaluated using three cases of multimorbidity interactions that were checked by our three clinicians. Usefulness was evaluated with two studies. The first evaluation was a pilot study with ten 6th year medical students and the second evaluation was done with 27 6th medical students and interns. The participants solved complex realistic cases of multimorbidity patients: with and without decision-support, two cases in the first evaluation and 6 cases in the second evaluation. Use of GoCom increased completeness of the patient management plans produced by the medical students from 0.44 to 0.71 (P-value of 0.0005) in the first evaluation, and from 0.31 to 0.78 (P-value < 0.0001) in the second evaluation. Correctness in the first evaluation was very high with (0.98) or without the system (0.91), with non-significant difference (P-value ≥ 0.17). In the second evaluation, use of GoCom increased correctness from 0.68 to 0.83 (P-value of 0.001). In addition, GoCom's explanation and visualization were perceived as useful by the vast majority of participants. While GoCom's detection of goal interactions is currently limited to detection of starting vs. stopping the same medication or medication subclasses and detecting conflicting physiological effects of concurrent medications, the evaluation demonstrated potential of the system for improving clinical decision-making for multimorbidity patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103587
JournalJournal of Biomedical Informatics
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research was funded by grant 906/16 from Israel Science Foundation. We thank Prof. Wojtek Michalowski and the anonymous reviewers for providing comments that helped improve our paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Inc.


  • Comorbidity
  • Computer-interpretable guidelines
  • Decision-support
  • Multimorbidity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics


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