Effect of increasing the intensity of implementing pneumonia guidelines: a randomized, controlled trial

Ann Intern Med. 2005 Dec 20;143(12):881-94. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-143-12-200512200-00006.


Background: Despite the development of evidence-based pneumonia guidelines, limited data exist on the most effective means to implement guideline recommendations into clinical practice.

Objective: To compare the effectiveness and safety of 3 guideline implementation strategies.

Design: Cluster-randomized, controlled trial.

Setting: 32 emergency departments in Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

Patients: 3219 patients with a clinical and radiographic diagnosis of pneumonia.

Interventions: The authors implemented a project-developed guideline for the initial site of treatment based on the Pneumonia Severity Index and performance of evidence-based processes of care at the emergency department level. Guideline implementation strategies were defined as low (n = 8), moderate (n = 12), and high intensity (n = 12).

Measurements: Effectiveness outcomes were the rate at which low-risk patients were treated on an outpatient basis and the performance of recommended processes of care. Safety outcomes included death, subsequent hospitalization for outpatients, and medical complications for inpatients.

Results: More low-risk patients (n = 1901) were treated as outpatients in the moderate-intensity and high-intensity groups than in the low-intensity group (high-intensity group, 61.9%; moderate-intensity group, 61.0%; low-intensity group, 37.5%; P = 0.004). More outpatients (n = 1125) in the high-intensity group received all 4 recommended processes of care (high-intensity group, 60.9%; moderate-intensity group, 28.3%; low-intensity group, 25.3%; P < 0.001); more inpatients (n = 2076) in the high-intensity group received all 4 recommended processes of care (high-intensity group, 44.3%; moderate-intensity group, 30.1%; low-intensity group, 23.0%; P < 0.001). No statistically significant differences in safety outcomes were observed across interventions.

Limitations: Twenty percent of eligible patients were not enrolled, and data on effectiveness outcomes were not collected before the trial.

Conclusions: Both moderate-intensity and high-intensity guideline implementation strategies safely increased the proportion of low-risk patients with pneumonia who were treated as outpatients. The high-intensity strategy was most effective for increasing the performance of the recommended processes of care for outpatients and inpatients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Community-Acquired Infections / drug therapy
  • Connecticut
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pennsylvania
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care