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AHCPR, AAHP, and AMA to Develop National Clinical Guideline Clearinghouse™

Press Release Date: May 28, 1997

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today announced plans to develop a comprehensive Internet-based source for clinical practice guidelines. The new National Guideline Clearinghouse™ (NGC) will make available a full range of current guidance on treatments for specific medical conditions.

Under the plan, HHS' Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, the American Association of Health Plans and the American Medical Association will work jointly to develop the new guideline clearinghouse. It is anticipated that AHCPR will award a contract later this year for the technical work to establish the NGC.

"Internet technology makes it possible to provide the rapid access to the latest information on medical treatments," Secretary Shalala said. "This clearinghouse will help professionals and patients alike to benefit from the growing volume of clinical practice information."

The target date for launching the new Internet clearinghouse site is Fall 1998.

"The NGC will make clinical practice guidelines available to every physician, health plan, provider, purchaser and consumer who can use a computer," said AHCPR Administrator John M. Eisenberg, M.D. "It will provide access to the widest selection of guidelines available from public and private organizations by establishing an independent, interactive Web site, accessible by using any standard Web browser or through the Web sites of our three organizations."

The development and use of clinical practice guidelines have grown markedly in the past five years. However, many existing and potential guideline users have difficulty gaining access to and keeping abreast of the many clinical practice guidelines currently in use. In addition, existing guidelines often differ in their development and content, further complicating their use.

To help address these issues, the NGC Web site will:

  • Contain standardized information for thousands of guidelines such as title, sponsoring organization, author(s), and methodology used.
  • Provide guideline abstracts, and where possible the full text of guidelines.
  • Compare and contrast the recommendations of guidelines on similar topics, with summaries covering major areas of agreement and disagreement.
  • Have topic-specific electronic mailing lists to enable registered users to communicate with one another on guideline development, dissemination, implementation, and use.

"Quality medical care is based on a combination of scientific knowledge, training, and experience," said Yank Coble, M.D., AMA Trustee and Chair of AMA's Practice Parameters Partnership. "Scientifically based clinical practice guidelines are one invaluable aid to diagnosis and treatment. The AMA's medical guidelines evaluation process, coupled with the ease of access that the NGC will provide, should greatly enhance the value of clinical practice guidelines to physicians and their patients."

"The establishment of the NGC shows how our three organizations can work together to respond to the growing interest in improving quality of care, reducing uncertainty and unnecessary variation in health care decisionmaking, and providing a solid scientific basis for allocation of health care resources," said AAHP's George Isham, M.D., Chair of AAHP's Committee on Quality Health Care.

The Agency for Health Care Policy and Research, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is the lead agency charged with supporting research designed to improve the quality of health care, enhance access to essential services, and to make this access to high quality health care more affordable.

For additional information, contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Howard Holland, (301) 427-1857; Salina Prasad, (301) 427-1864.

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