Priority setting in guideline development: article 2 in Integrating and coordinating efforts in COPD guideline development. An official ATS/ERS workshop report

Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2012 Dec;9(5):225-8. doi: 10.1513/pats.201208-055ST.


Introduction: Professional societies, like many other organizations around the world, have recognized the need to use more rigorous processes to ensure that health care recommendations are informed by the best available research evidence. Priority setting is an essential component of developing clinical practice guidelines informed by the best available research evidence. It ensures that resources and attention are devoted to those areas in which clinical recommendations will provide the greatest benefit to patients, clinicians, and policy makers. This is the second of a series of 14 articles that methodologists and researchers from around the world prepared to advise guideline developers in respiratory and other diseases. This review focuses on priority setting, addressing five key questions.

Methods: In this review, we addressed the following questions. (1) At which steps of guideline development should priorities be considered? (2) How do we create an initial list of potential topics within the guideline? (3) What criteria should be used to establish priorities? (4) What parties should be involved and what processes should be used to set priorities? (5)What are the potential challenges of setting priorities? We updated an existing review on priority setting, and searched PubMed and other databases of methodological studies for existing systematic reviews and relevant methodological research. We did not conduct systematic reviews ourselves. Our conclusions are based on available evidence, our own experience working with guideline developers, and workshop discussions.

Results and discussion: Existing literature on priority setting largely applies to identifying priorities for which guidelines to develop rather than setting priorities for recommendations within a guideline. Nonetheless, there is substantial consensus about the general factors that should be considered in setting priorities. These include the burdens and costs of illness, potential impact of a recommendation, identified deficits or weak points in practice, variation or uncertainty in practice, and availability of evidence. The input of a variety of stakeholders is useful in setting priorities, although informal consultation is used more often than formal methods. Processes for setting priorities remains poorly described in most guidelines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disease Management
  • Evidence-Based Practice / methods
  • Evidence-Based Practice / organization & administration
  • Health Priorities* / classification
  • Health Priorities* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Patient Care Planning / standards
  • Patient-Centered Care / standards
  • Policy Making*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / therapy