Objective: To assess the quality of Australian clinical guidelines for chronic diseases and their relevance to older people with multiple comorbid conditions.
Design: Selection and assessment of national clinical guidelines for chronic conditions listed as National Health Priority Areas: cardiovascular health, diabetes mellitus, mental health, asthma, arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, and cancer.
Main outcome measures: Standardised mean scores obtained with the Appraisal of Guidelines Research and Evaluation (AGREE) instrument (criteria grouped into six domains: scope and purpose; stakeholder involvement; rigour of development; clarity and presentation; applicability; and editorial independence). Relevance of guidelines for older people with multiple comorbid conditions.
Results: 17 guidelines were included in the study. Guidelines approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) scored significantly better than those not approved by the NHMRC in all domains except for editorial independence and clarity and presentation. The mean quality of guidelines not approved by the NHMRC was below 50% in all domains except clarity and presentation. Half of the guidelines addressed treatment for older patients or for patients with one comorbid condition, but only one addressed treatment for older patients with multiple comorbid conditions.
Conclusions: Professional societies and charities should be encouraged and supported to develop clinical guidelines in compliance with NHMRC requirements. Future guidelines should place more emphasis on the management of older people with multiple comorbid conditions.