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HHS Launches New Quality Resource for Health Professionals on the World Wide Web

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Press Release Date: January 14, 1999

HHS Secretary Donna E. Shalala today launched the National Guideline Clearinghouse™ (NGC), an Internet-based source of information on clinical care that will help health professionals to improve the quality of care they provide to their patients. The NGC, a repository for evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, was developed by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) in partnership with the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Association of Health Plans (AAHP).

"The National Guideline Clearinghouse™ is an important example of the Administration's commitment to improving the quality of health care in this country," said Secretary Shalala. "This new online service gives clinicians free and easy access to the latest health care information from many sources as they make treatment decisions with their patients."

Thousands of clinical practice guidelines have been created by medical and professional societies, managed care organizations, hospitals, state and federal agencies, and others. However, clinicians and other users often have had difficulty gaining access to a full range of guidelines, and then identifying which guidelines are based on scientific evidence. They also have had no efficient way of making comparisons to select the guideline that best meets their patients' needs.

The NGC responds to a longstanding need by identifying and featuring evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and presenting them with standardized abstracts and tables that allow for comparison of guidelines on similar topics. The tables provide information on the major areas of agreement and disagreement among guidelines to help users make informed selections. The NGC also will feature topic-related electronic mail discussion groups where guideline users can exchange information about guideline development, content, and implementation.

"National medical specialty societies continuously produce and update valuable and scientifically valid clinical practice guidelines. These guidelines contain evidence-based scientific knowledge that is a vital component of quality medical care," said Yank D. Coble, M.D., Executive Committee Member of the AMA Board of Trustees. "The AMA's participation in the NGC partnership establishes an additional means to efficiently disseminate these state-of-the-art guidelines so that practicing physicians and other health care professionals have easy access to the scientific knowledge that these guidelines provide."

"The National Guideline Clearinghouse™ is a major milestone in the pursuit of better medicine in America, and an excellent example of what can be achieved when stakeholders from the public and private sectors work together toward common goals," said American Association of Health Plans President and CEO Karen Ignagni. "Health plans and physicians will use the NGC to improve quality of care for patients. The NGC will be an important tool in clinical decisionmaking as we continue to address the problems of underuse, overuse, misuse, uncertainty, and uneveness in health care quality."

To date, more than 500 clinical practice guidelines have been submitted to the NGC by physician specialty groups, medical societies, managed care plans, state and federal organizations, and others. The NGC criteria for selecting evidence-based guidelines were published in a Federal Register notice issued April 13, 1998. AHCPR has contracted with ECRI a nonprofit health services research organization, to perform the technical work for the NGC.

"It is well known that variation in health care results partly from uncertainty and a lack of evidence for clinical treatment," said John M. Eisenberg, M.D., AHCPR Administrator. "The NGC will help reduce variation and improve health care quality by giving clinicians and other health professionals a source of information on evidence-based treatment to help guide their decisions."

The NGC will continue to receive guideline submissions on an ongoing basis. Organizations wishing to submit a guideline should contact Vivian Coates, ECRI, NGC Project Director, 5200 Butler Pike, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462-1298. For questions about guideline submissions, please contact Jean Slutsky, NGC Project Officer, (301) 427-1600 or via E-mail at:

Editor's Note: Actualities and a b-roll package will be fed by Medialink from 2:00-2:15 p.m. ET, Thursday, January 14. The coordinates are C-Band: Telstar 5, Transponder 17, Audio 6.2 and 6.8. For technical information on the feed, contact Medialink at 1-800-843-0677. In addition, an actuality from Dr. Eisenberg will be available through the HHS Radio Hotline. The phone number is 1-800-621-2984.

For additional information, please contact AHCPR Public Affairs: Karen Migdail (301) 427-1855 (; AMA: Brenda Craine (202) 789-7447; AAHP: Susan Pisano (202) 778-3245.

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