Improving guideline adherence for the diagnosis of ADHD in an ambulatory pediatric setting

Ambul Pediatr. May-Jun 2005;5(3):138-42. doi: 10.1367/A04-047R.1.


Background: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has published clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). However, implementation of guidelines has been notoriously difficult to achieve in the wider context of changing individual physicians' clinical practice.

Objective: Implement a formalized diagnostic protocol for ADHD and study whether this protocol improved adherence of pediatric residents and faculty to published guidelines for the diagnosis of ADHD.

Methods: Quasi-experimental retrospective record review of 63 pediatric patients evaluated for ADHD by pediatric residents and faculty in an outpatient pediatric clinic before (n = 25) and after (n = 38) implementation of a formal diagnostic process for ADHD. The key elements of the new diagnostic process include completion of a semistructured interview and mandatory rating scales for home and school. The published AAP guidelines include 1) documentation of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM) IV criteria; 2) evidence of core symptoms obtained directly from home and 3) from school; and 4) assessment for coexisting conditions. Adherence was assessed to each criterion individually (yes/no) and was summarized in a single score.

Results: Only 4% of clinicians and nurse practitioners diagnosing children in the before group adhered to all 4 AAP guidelines, compared to 82% in the after group (P < .001). Significant improvement was observed across each of the 4 criteria in the AAP guidelines. Moreover, the improvement in adherence to all 4 guidelines was noted for residents and faculty.

Conclusion: A significant improvement in adherence to AAP guidelines was obtained for all providers through implementation of a structured diagnostic approach to ADHD.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care / standards*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / diagnosis*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Male
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends
  • Probability
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies