Objectives: To describe a methodology used to keep practice guidelines up to date and to summarize data collected during the first year of implementing this plan with a cancer practice guidelines program.
Methods: The updating strategy includes regular searches of peer-reviewed literature and meeting proceedings, review and interpretation of new evidence, review and revision of clinical recommendations, and notification to practitioners and policy makers about new evidence and its impact on recommendations.
Results: Eighty pieces of new evidence were found relating to seventeen of the twenty guidelines included in this study. On average, four pieces of new evidence were found per guideline, but there was considerable variation across the guidelines. Of the eighty pieces, nineteen contributed to modifications of clinical recommendations in six practice guidelines, whereas the remaining evidence served to support the original recommendations. None of the modifications led to changes that advised against original recommendations. MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, and meeting proceedings yielded many pieces of evidence, whereas CancerLit and HealthStar did not contribute significantly to the overall yield. Furthermore, key pieces of evidence that led to modifications to the recommendations were often identified by members of the disease site groups before appearing in electronic databases.
Conclusions: The updating process is resource intensive but yields important findings. In response to this evaluation, the updating protocol has been revised such that literature searches are conducted quarterly and the scope of sources searched routinely is restricted to MEDLINE, the Cochrane Library, and meeting proceedings.