Practice Guidelines and Standards

An Overview

Published in: Quality Review Bulletin, v. 16, no. 2, Feb. 1990, p. 42-49

by Lucian L. Leape

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Organized medicine, insurance companies, regulators, and the peer review organizations are all interested in practice guidelines. Recently, the U.S. Congress established the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, which is charged with overseeing the development of practice guidelines. If properly developed, disseminated, and used, practice guidelines should reduce the incidence of inappropriate care and help control costs. Although guidelines have been used by physicians for years, guidelines now being developed should be more comprehensive, specific, exhaustive, and--on the basis of the best scientific evidence of effectiveness and expert opinion--more effectively discriminate between useful and useless care. Practice guidelines can improve the quality of care when used voluntarily by physicians in practice, when used as standards for quality monitoring and assurance programs, and when used as the basis for reimbursement for services. All interested parties should share responsibilities for the research, development, and production of appropriateness criteria, their translation into guidelines and standards, and the dissemination and maintenance of the guidelines, including evaluation, revision, and updating.

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