IOM: New Guidelines for Guidelines

Side Note: We here at appreciate all efforts aimed at med mal reform. Because, as physician advocates, we believe attempts at reform can not only help fix a broken med mal system in need of repair, they can also help lower our physicians’ med mal rates. The Obama administration recently touted the use of clinical practice guidelines as a way to help reform med mal in this country. The administration suggested that physicians who use clinical practice guidelines be given immunity or limited liability should med mal occur while following the guidelines. As we said in an earlier article, there are lots of problems with this and we are not quite sure how such a plan would be enacted. However, a step in the right direction is the Institute of Medicine’s new report on how to create guidelines, entitled, “Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust.”

The report was requested by Congress, via the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008. To develop the report, the IOM formed an expert committee to research the best methods used in developing clinical guidelines. They developed eight standards for developing rigorous and trust-worthy guidelines. See the report below for the details.

The report nicely goes a step further to promote the adoption of the standards by asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop a mechanism to identify trust-worthy guidelines. Doing so would help to publicly identify and promote these standards, make the trust-worthy guidelines easier to identify, and help to promote adoption of the trust-worthy guidelines. In addition, the report also asks AHRQ to provide funding to pilot-test the standards to assess and evaluate them.

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Clinical Practice Guidelines We Can Trust
Released: March 23, 2011

Healthcare providers often are faced with difficult decisions and considerable uncertainty when treating patients. They rely on the scientific literature, in addition to their knowledge, skills, experience, and patient preferences, to inform their decisions. Clinical practice guidelines are statements that include recommendations intended to optimize patient care that are informed by a systematic review of evidence and an assessment of the benefits and harms of alternative care options. Rather than dictating a one-size-fits-all approach to patient care, clinical practice guidelines offer an evaluation of the quality of the relevant scientific literature and an assessment of the likely benefits and harms of a particular treatment. This information enables healthcare providers to proceed accordingly, selecting the best care for a unique patient based on his or her preferences.

Read the Report Brief

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