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Overview of clinical practice guidelines

Paul Shekelle, MD
Section Editor
Mark D Aronson, MD
Deputy Editor
Anna R Thorner, MD


Clinical practice guidelines are recommendations for clinicians about the care of patients with specific conditions. They should be based upon the best available research evidence and practice experience.

The Institute of Medicine defines clinical practice guidelines as "…statements that include recommendations, intended to optimize patient care, that are informed by a systematic review of evidence and an assessment of the benefits and harms of alternative care options" [1].

Based on this definition, guidelines have two parts:

The foundation is a systematic review of the research evidence bearing on a clinical question, focused on the strength of the evidence on which clinical decision-making for that condition is based.

A set of recommendations, involving both the evidence and value judgments regarding benefits and harms of alternative care options, addressing how patients with that condition should be managed, everything else being equal.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jul 28, 2016.
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