Objectives: To identify predictors of high-quality clinical practice guidelines.
Methods: A total of 86 guidelines from 11 countries were assessed by four independent appraisers per guideline using the AGREE instrument (23 items). Six aspects of guideline development were considered to explain the variation in quality scores: care level (primary/secondary care), scope (diagnosis/treatment), type of guideline (new/update), year of publication, type of agency (governmental/professional), and whether the guideline was produced within a structured and coordinated program.
Results: Guidelines produced within a guideline program and by governmental agencies had higher scores than their counterparts. Differences in the applicability of the guidelines could not be explained by the variables studied.
Conclusion: To ensure high quality, clinical guidelines should be produced within a structured and coordinated program. Professional organizations or specialist societies that aim to develop guidelines may adopt quality criteria from leading guideline agencies.