Objective: To evaluate the outcomes of and barriers to implementing standard guidelines (Caring for Australasians with renal impairment [CARI]), using iron management in patients having dialysis as an example.
Design and setting: On-site review of iron management processes at six Australian dialysis units varying in size and locality. Patients' iron indices and haemoglobin levels were obtained from the Australian and New Zealand Dialysis and Transplant Registry.
Participants: Patients with chronic kidney disease who were dependent on dialysis.
Main outcome measures: Processes for assessing indices of iron stores and iron supplementation; comparison with target indices in the CARI guidelines.
Results: There was considerable variability among the units in achievement of haemoglobin and iron targets, with 25%-32% of patients achieving haemoglobin targets of 110-120 g/L, 30%-68% achieving ferritin targets of 300-800 microg/L, and 65%-73% achieving transferrin saturation targets of 20%-50%. Implementation barriers included lack of knowledge, lack of awareness of or trust in the CARI guideline, inability to implement the guideline, and inability to agree on a uniform unit protocol. Factors associated with achieving the CARI guideline targets included nurse-driven iron management protocols, use of an iron management decision aid, fewer nephrologists per dialysis unit, and a "proactive" (actively keeping iron levels within target range) rather than "reactive" (only reacting if iron levels are out of the range) protocol.
Conclusions: Variability in achievement of iron targets, despite the availability of a clinical practice guideline, may be explained by variability in processes of care for achieving and maintaining adequate iron parameters.