Strategies for guideline implementation in primary care focusing on patients with cardiovascular disease: a systematic review

Fam Pract. 2014 Jun;31(3):247-66. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmt080. Epub 2013 Dec 23.


Background: Guidelines should reduce inappropriate practice and improve the efficiency of treatment. Not only methodological quality but also acceptance and successful implementation in daily practice are crucial for the benefit on patients. Focusing on cardiovascular diseases (CVD), it is still unclear which implementation strategy can improve physician adherence to the recommendations of guidelines in primary care.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review on randomized controlled trials about guideline implementation strategies on CVD. Medline, Embase, CENTRAL, conference proceedings and registers of ongoing studies were searched.

Results: Eighty-four trials met our predefined inclusion criteria, of them 54 trials compared unimodal strategies and 30 multimodal strategies to usual care. Concerning unimodal strategies, 15 trials investigated provider reminder systems, 3 audit and feedback, 15 provider education, 4 patient education, 5 promotion of self-management and 14 organizational change. The strongest benefit of a unimodal implementation strategy was found due to organizational change (odds ratio 1.96; 95% CI 1.4 to 2.75), followed by patient education, provider education and provider reminder systems. Trials on the efficacy of audit and feedback and patient self-management showed differing results or small advantages in terms of physician adherence. Multimodal interventions showed almost similar effect measures and ranking of strategies.

Conclusion: The use of implementation strategies for the distribution of guidelines on CVD can be convincingly effective on physician adherence, regardless whether based on a unimodal or multimodal design. Three distinct strategies should be well considered in such an attempt: organizational changes in the primary care team, patient education and provider education.

Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; guidelines; meta-analysis; physician adherence; primary care; systematic review..

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Primary Health Care / methods*