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New rules toughen evidence for medical guideline recommendations

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 24, 2013

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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is tightening the standards for the inclusion of clinical guidelines in its National Guideline Clearinghouse.

Effective in June 2014, all guidelines must be based on a systematic review of the evidence, which includes an explanation of the search strategy, description of the study selection criteria, a synthesis of evidence through tables and an explanation of how the evidence informs practice recommendations. Guidelines also must include an assessment of the benefits and harms of the guideline recommendations as well as alternative care options, the agency said (link).

The changes come as the result of a March 2011 Institute of Medicine report that said that “most guidelines used today suffer from shortcomings in development” (link).

Several IOM recommendations did not make it into the AHRQ clearinghouse’s new standards. For example, the IOM said guideline committees should disclose how they were funded and that a majority of guideline-writing panel members should be free from financial conflicts of interest. The AHRQ standards for inclusion in the clearinghouse do not touch on those areas. There are more than 2,700 guidelines in the National Guideline Clearinghouse.

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