Guidelines rarely used GRADE and applied methods inconsistently: A methodological study of Australian guidelines

J Clin Epidemiol. 2021 Feb;130:125-134. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2020.10.017. Epub 2020 Oct 29.


Objectives: The Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) approach is accepted methodology to assess the certainty of the evidence included in systematic reviews and clinical practice guidelines. The GRADE approach is endorsed globally, in Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council advocated for the use of the GRADE approach in 2011. The purpose of this methodological review was to assess how GRADE has been adopted for Australian practice guidelines.

Study design and setting: This methodological review searched of the National Health and Medical Research Council Clinical Practice Guidelines Portal from 2011 to 2018, in an effort to retrieve all practice guidelines available via this medium.

Results: 240 guidelines were retrieved authored by 51 different organizations. 15 guidelines followed GRADE methodology. Application of GRADE methods varied between guidelines, some misreported and altered aspects of the GRADE process. Guidelines that closely adhered to the guidance from the GRADE Working Group scored higher in domain 3 (rigor of development) of the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation II tool, indicating a positive linear relationship between GRADE adherence and rigor of development scores.

Conclusion: The results of our project suggest that the use of GRADE in Australian guidelines is increasing, however, strategies to increase uptake and reporting within the guideline community need to be explored.

Keywords: Australia; Clinical; GRADE; Guidelines; NHMRC.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Decision Making, Computer-Assisted*
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards*
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Software
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic / standards*