Background: The AGREE instrument has been validated for evaluating Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) pertaining to medical care. This study evaluated the reliability and validity of physical therapists using the AGREE to assess quality of CPGs relevant to physical therapy practice.
Methods: A total of 69 physical therapists participated and were classified as generalists, specialist or researchers. Pairs of appraisers within each category evaluated independently, a set of 6 CPG selected at random from a pool of 55 CPGs.
Results: Reliability between pairs of appraisers indicated low to high reliability depending on the domain and number of appraisers (0.17-0.81 for single appraiser; 0.30-0.96 when score averaged across a pair of appraisers). The highest reliability was achieved for Rigour of Development, which exceeded ICC> 0.79, if scores from pairs of appraisers were pooled. Adding more than 3 appraisers did not consistently improve reliability. Appraiser type did not determine reliability scores. End-users, including study participants and a separate sample of 102 physical therapy students, found the AGREE useful to guide critical appraisal. The construct validity of the AGREE was supported in that expected differences on Rigour of Development domains were observed between expert panels versus those with no/uncertain expertise (differences of 10-21% p = 0.09-0.001). Factor analysis with varimax rotation, produced a 4-factor solution that was similar, although not in exact agreement with the AGREE Domains. Validity was also supported by the correlation observed (Kendall-tao = 0.69) between Overall Assessment and the Rigour of Development domain.
Conclusion: These findings suggest that the AGREE instrument is reliable and valid when used by physiotherapists to assess the quality of CPG pertaining to physical therapy health services.