Background: An Australia-wide postal survey was undertaken to determine surgeons' attitudes towards guidelines and their preferred strategies for dissemination and implementation of guidelines for the management of colorectal cancer, developed by the Australian Cancer Network (ACN) and the Clinical Oncological Society of Australia (COSA). This survey was conducted as a baseline before the release of the definitive guidelines.
Methods: All members of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) with a self-nominated special interest in colorectal surgery and members of the Colorectal Surgical Society of Australia (CSSA) were surveyed.
Results: A total of 195 of the 219 surgeons eligible for the study returned questionnaires (89% response rate). Most (86%) were aware that these guidelines were being developed. More than one-half had read at least one draft version. Almost half (44.6%; 95%CI: 37.6-51.9%) agreed that guidelines represented 'cookbook medicine' and one-third (33.3%; 95%CI: 26.9-40.5%) agreed that guidelines might increase the number of malpractice suits. Local adaptation of guidelines and 'academic detailing' were most favourably ranked to assure implementation. Further, 54.9% (95%CI: 47.6-61.9%) of respondents believed that a successful legal defence of a surgeon whose practice had been within the guidelines would encourage uptake. Surgeons operating outside teaching hospitals were more likely to endorse this view than others.
Conclusions: These results demonstrate that an important target group for colorectal cancer guidelines, namely surgeons, appears receptive to clinical practice guidelines. These results could also permit interventions that target attitudinal barriers to implementing guidelines and subgroups of surgeons who have particular concerns. Expensive strategies for implementation ought to be subject to rigorous evaluation for their impact in modifying clinical practice.