The BMJ Publishing Group has teamed up with InferMed, a leading UK provider of clinical software, to assess the feasibility of developing a system that electronically mimics the process that doctors naturally use to make clinical decisions.

The two organisations say their shared objective is to develop an electronic clinical decision ‘support system’ to help doctors make complex treatment decisions for patients with heart failure.

The new system will use InferMed’s AREZZO decision-support technology together with the latest scientific information in the BMJ Groups leading Clinical Evidence publication to provide an instant list of potential treatment options.

Each option will have evidence for and against the treatment and will be tailored specifically to each patient, taking into account what medicines the patient is already taking and any other conditions they may have.

Such a system could be particularly valuable in light of the government’s ongoing commitment to tackle heart disease as part of the National Service Frameworks.

The system would draw on information from Clinical Evidence, which is constantly updated, providing both the doctor and the patient with confidence that the advice provided is safe and accurate.

Stuart Barton, Editor of Clinical Evidence explained the aim of the project was to develop a decision-support system to provide the most appropriate evidence about a particular patient, based on their individual requirements: "A common criticism of evidence-based medicine is that it only provides general answers of limited use in a specific clinical situation."

Dr Robert Dunlop, InferMed’s Clinical Director, added: "AREZZO mimics the natural clinical decision-making process but has the ability to draw on a vast knowledge base. This would make it an extremely powerful tool for healthcare professionals who are keen to ensure that their work is linked as firmly as possible to the latest evidence."

InferMed was established in February 1999, backed by the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, and focuses on electronic data collection for clinical research and decision support for patient care.

In November 2001 the firm was named was named the fastest growing technology company by Deloitte and Touche in the London and South East Fast 50 Technology Companies Awards.