Clinical guidelines are an increasingly important way for physicians and other health care providers to apply the best evidence to clinical practice. Many of these guidelines come from medical specialty societies such as the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgeons (AAO-HNS) and are driven, in part, by the need for specialties to identify their own best practices amid wide variation in clinical practice and the increasing complexity of health care delivery. The primary aim of guidelines is to give clinicians a tool that, along with clinical judgment and experience, helps them provide the best patient care possible.
Explore this issue:July 2012
Although clinical guidelines are becoming a larger part of medical parlance and practice, ambiguities remain about what they are and are not, how they are developed and how they should be used. The various terms used to denote these guidelines also muddy the waters. Here is a primer on the nuances of clinical guidelines.
The emergence of clinical guidelines can be traced to the evidence-based medicine movement that took hold in the 1990s. A landmark article by Guyatt and colleagues published in 1992 described evidence-based medicine as an emerging paradigm for medical practice in which clinical decision-making is based more on