Background: There are doubts about the real usefulness of clinical guidelines to induce changes in practice, specially in primary health care. Those guidelines with inconsistent recommendations can even be misleading.
Aim: To assess the quality of Chilean primary health care guidelines and to identify factors associated with high quality guidelines.
Material and methods: Chilean primary care guidelines published and disseminated using any strategy 1999 and 2004 were analyzed. Each selected guideline was assessed independently by two evaluators using the Appraisal of Guidelines, Research and Evaluation (AGREE) instrument following standardized instructions. Descriptive statistics for each dimension of the AGREE instrument were calculated for each guideline.
Results: A total of 33 guidelines were retrieved. Fifteen were located using a manual search and 18 from electronic sources. Twenty four did not match our definition of guidelines, therefore only nine were included in the final assessment. There were important differences in the scores obtained by each guideline in different dimensions, with relevant methodological shortcomings. However, no significant differences in scores were found when guidelines were compared by year of elaboration.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that previous efforts in primary health care guideline development were misdirected and that important changes are necessary to generate high quality guidelines.