How does reviewing the evidence change veterinary surgeons' beliefs regarding the treatment of ovine footrot? A quantitative and qualitative study.
Footrot is a widespread, infectious cause of lameness in sheep, with major economic and welfare costs. The aims of this research were: (i) to quantify how veterinary surgeons' beliefs regarding the efficacy of two treatments for footrot changed following a review of the evidence (ii) to obtain a consensus opinion following group discussions (iii) to capture complementary qualitative data to place their beliefs within a broader clinical context. Grounded in a Bayesian statistical framework, probabilistic elicitation (roulette method) was used to quantify the beliefs of eleven veterinary surgeons during two one-day workshops. There was considerable heterogeneity in veterinary surgeons' beliefs before they listened to a review of the evidence. After hearing the evidence, seven participants quantifiably changed their beliefs. In particular, two participants who initially believed that foot trimming with topical oxytetracycline was the better treatment, changed to entirely favour systemic and topical oxytetracycline instead. The results suggest that a substantial amount of the variation in beliefs related to differences in veterinary surgeons' knowledge of the evidence. Although considerable differences in opinion still remained after the evidence review, with several participants having non-overlapping 95% credible intervals, both groups did achieve a consensus opinion. Two key findings from the qualitative data were: (i) veterinary surgeons believed that farmers are unlikely to actively seek advice on lameness, suggesting a proactive veterinary approach is required (ii) more attention could be given to improving the way in which veterinary advice is delivered to farmers. In summary this study has: (i) demonstrated a practical method for probabilistically quantifying how veterinary surgeons' beliefs change (ii) revealed that the evidence that currently exists is capable of changing veterinary opinion (iii) suggested that improved transfer of research knowledge into veterinary practice is needed (iv) identified some potential obstacles to the implementation of veterinary advice by farmers.