In 1992, under the sponsorship of the U.S. Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, RAND assembled an expert panel to develop the Heart Failure Clinical Practice Guideline. Phase II of the effort was intended to identify which of the guideline's recommendations the panel felt were suitable for use in retrospective utilization review and quality assessment programs and to develop review criteria, performance measures, and standards of quality for use in monitoring compliance with those recommendations. Selecting guideline recommendations for translation into review criteria and ultimately into standards of care was a multi-step process comprising (1) identification of 34 recommendations from the guideline; (2) rating them on the basis of importance to quality of care and feasibility of monitoring; (3) review by a subcommittee and the full guideline panel; (4) translation into review criteria; and (5) further review and input by panelists and peer and pilot reviewers. Finally, standards of care (the minimum proportion of cases expected to be in accordance with guideline recommendations) were determined to be 90%-95% for six of the final criteria and 75%-80% for the other two. Despite some reservations, physicians and other health care professionals agreed to be held accountable for following a core set of guideline recommendations for the treatment of heart failure. Substantial progress was made in identifying recommendations that panelists and reviewers were willing to endorse in utilization review activities, including adoption of improved documentation standards. The review criteria's major impact may be the knowledge that the criteria are in place and that care is being monitored based on those standards.