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IOM Recommends Clinical Practice Guideline Standards

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, March 24, 2011

The Institute of Medicine issued two reports on Wednesday that it said will provide an objective and consistent framework for clinical practice guidelines, and standardize systematic reviews of comparative effectiveness.

The eight standards promoted in Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust include recommendations for establishing transparency in the practice, managing conflict of interest, external review, and group composition development.

"These standards are necessary given that there is little documentation to judge the quality and reliability of many of the existing clinical practice guidelines," said Sheldon Greenfield, MD, executive director, Health Policy Research Institute, University of California, Irvine, and chair of the IOM committee on guidelines.  "Practice guidelines provide valuable data and guidance that not only inform individual decisions about care but ultimately could also improve overall healthcare quality and outcomes." 

IOM's second report, Finding What Works in Health Care: Standards for Systematic Reviews, addresses the myriad and often competing guidelines for clinical recommendations by offering what it said are 21 standards to ensure objective, transparent, and scientifically valid reviews.

"This report presents the 'gold standard' to which those who conduct systematic reviews should aspire to achieve the most reliable and useful products," said Alfred O. Berg, MD, professor of family medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, and chair of the committee that wrote the report on systematic reviews.

"We recognize that it will take an investment of resources and time to achieve such high standards, but they should be adopted to minimize the chances that important health decisions are based on information that may be biased or erroneous," Berg said.

The studies were requested by Congress and sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services.


John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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