Do guidelines offer implementation advice to target users? A systematic review of guideline applicability
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OBJECTIVE: Providers and patients are most likely to use and benefit from guidelines accompanied by implementation support. Guidelines published in 2007 and earlier assessed with the Appraisal of Guidelines, Research and Evaluation (AGREE) instrument scored poorly for applicability, which reflects the inclusion of implementation instructions or tools. The purpose of this study was to examine the applicability of guidelines published in 2008 or later and identify factors associated with applicability. DESIGN: Systematic review of studies that used AGREE to assess guidelines published in 2008 or later. DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched from 2008 to July 2014, and the reference lists of eligible items. Two individuals independently screened results for English language studies that reviewed guidelines using AGREE and reported all domain scores, and extracted data. Descriptive statistics were calculated across all domains. Multilevel regression analysis with a mixed effects model identified factors associated with applicability. RESULTS: Of 245 search results, 53 were retrieved as potentially relevant and 20 studies were eligible for review. The mean and median domain scores for applicability across 137 guidelines published in 2008 or later were 43.6% and 42.0% (IQR 21.8-63.0%), respectively. Applicability scored lower than all other domains, and did not markedly improve compared with guidelines published in 2007 or earlier. Country (UK) and type of developer (disease-specific foundation, non-profit healthcare system) appeared to be associated with applicability when assessed with AGREE II (not original AGREE). CONCLUSIONS: Despite increasing recognition of the need for implementation tools, guidelines continue to lack such resources. To improve healthcare delivery and associated outcomes, further research is needed to establish the type of implementation tools needed and desired by healthcare providers and consumers, and methods for developing high-quality tools.
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