The nature and purpose of Clinical Practice Guidelines

Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPGs) refer to a set of guidelines that medical practitioners and other caregivers employed in healthcare can use as reference to help in the decision-making process for ensuring better health outcomes for patients. These guidelines, since they relate to clinical practice, are arrived at after a meticulous, deep and systematic assessment of clinical evidence, which is at the core of evidence-based care.

Adherence to Clinical Practice Guidelines has demonstrated increased quality in healthcare delivery resulting out of improved quality and consistency. CPGs have also shown that costs can be considerably reduced. Moreover, Clinical Practice Guidelines can be implemented across all the subdomains and areas of healthcare. Clinical Practice Guidelines can be used across many disciplines and functions ranging from kidney disease to brain tumors.

What purposes do Clinical Practice Guidelines serve?

Clinical Practice Guidelines serve the important purpose of augmenting overall healthcare quality. Towards this end, CPGs:

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Computerized Clinical Practice Guidelines

In tune with paper-based Clinical Practice Guidelines, a new development has been the evolution of computerized CPGs. Being computerized, these are a set of evidence-based Clinical Practice Guidelines which use inbuilt algorithms to suggest the ideal medical procedures for particular situations. Computerized Clinical Practice Guidelines are more effective than paper-based CPGs because they leave very less scope for human error.

American organizations that issue Clinical Practice Guidelines

Many international organizations issue CPG recommendations. In America, the US National Guideline Clearinghouse and the National Guidance Clearing House are tasked with framing and issuing Clinical Practice Guidelines for the medical fraternity.

Issues with Clinical Practice Guidelines

Although considered a practical and positive step towards ensuring better evidence based clinical practices and outcomes, CPGs suffer from a major drawback. They are never constant, since these guidelines are in a field that is constantly changing. As changes take place in the profession, CPG have to be upgraded from time to time. Something conceived and implemented in a certain situation keeping in mind the current set of technologies may outlive its utility very soon, necessitating the formulating of new Clinical Practice Guidelines again. This makes Clinical Practice Guidelines an ever-evolving, ever-changing field.