How do guideline developers identify, incorporate and report patient preferences? An international cross-sectional survey

BMC Health Serv Res. 2020 May 24;20(1):458. doi: 10.1186/s12913-020-05343-x.


Background: Guidelines based on patient preferences differ from those developed solely by clinicians and may promote patient adherence to guideline recommendations. There is scant evidence on how to develop patient-informed guidelines. This study aimed to describe how guideline developers identify, incorporate and report patient preferences.

Methods: We employed a descriptive cross-sectional survey design. Eligible organizations were non-profit agencies who developed at least one guideline in the past five years and had considered patient preferences in guideline development. We identified developers through the Guidelines International Network and publicly-available guideline repositories, administered the survey online, and used summary statistics to report results.

Results: The response rate was 18.3% (52/284). Respondents included professional societies, and government, academic, charitable and healthcare delivery organizations from 18 countries with at least 1 to ≥6 years of experience generating patient-informed guidelines. Organizations most frequently identified preferences through patient panelists (86.5%) and published research (84.6%). Most organizations (48, 92.3%) used multiple approaches to identify preferences (median 3, range 1 to 5). Most often, organizations used preferences to generate recommendations (82.7%) or establish guideline questions (73.1%). Few organizations explicitly reported preferences; instead, they implicitly embedded preferences in guideline recommendations (82.7%), questions (73.1%), or point-of-care communication tools (61.5%). Most developers had little capacity to generate patient-informed guidelines. Few offered training to patients (30.8%), or had dedicated funding (28.9%), managers (9.6%) or staff (9.6%). Respondents identified numerous barriers to identifying preferences. They also identified processes, resources and clinician- and patient-strategies that can facilitate the development of patient-informed guidelines. In contrast to identifying preferences, developers noted few approaches for, or barriers or facilitators of incorporating or reporting preferences.

Conclusions: Developers emphasized the need for knowledge on how to identify, incorporate and report patient preferences in guidelines. In particular, how to use patient preferences to formulate recommendations, and transparently report patient preferences and the influence of preferences on guidelines is unknown. Still, insights from responding developers may help others who may be struggling to generate guidelines informed by patient preferences.

Keywords: Clinical practice guidelines; Patient participation; Patient preferences; Patient-centred care; Questionnaire.

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Patient Compliance*
  • Patient Preference*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires