Considering Cost-Effectiveness in Cardiology Clinical Guidelines: Progress and Prospects

Value Health. Jul-Aug 2016;19(5):516-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jval.2016.04.019.


Since the 1980s, when the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and the American Heart Association (AHA) established a joint task force to examine the use of cardiovascular procedures and therapies, cardiologists have been leaders in the development of clinical practice guidelines. The ACC/AHA guidelines development process has evolved considerably over the last 30 or more years. Guidelines now focus on clinical conditions, such as angina, instead of procedures, such as bypass surgery. There is a formal organizational structure, with dedicated staff, a standing committee on practice guidelines, and specific panels of volunteer experts on each topic. This process tightly manages conflicts of interest and strives for evidence-based, as opposed to opinion-based, guidelines, with a clear citation of the supporting evidence. Traditional clinical guidelines consider only what is best for the individual patient, and have explicitly not considered the cost to society. Nevertheless, in many guidelines development meetings, high cost was implicitly considered: if a procedure was extremely costly, the evidence needed to be very strong. The Guidelines Committee recognized that cost considerations ought to be made more transparent, and that the evidence on economic value should be explicitly cited when available. These considerations were formalized by a recent white paper on incorporating economic considerations into ACC/AHA guidelines. In considering value, it is necessary to assess the quality of the evidence as well as to define levels of value. The next ACC/AHA guideline will incorporate value as a part of its recommendations. This will be an evidence-based process in which published economic assessments relating to key questions will be reviewed.

Keywords: cardiology; clinical practice guidelines; cost; cost-effectiveness analysis; value; value frameworks.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiology*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / economics*
  • United States