Objective: To assess the feasibility of the appropriateness method in the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (AHCPR) Clinical Practice Guideline Development process, and to compare the results of the appropriateness method with those obtained using evidence tables and an informal consensus method.
Setting: AHCPR Low Back Problems Clinical Practice Guideline.
Design: Two different group process methods with the same panel of experts were used in observational comparison of results of and satisfaction with guideline development.
Data collection: Practice guideline statements were created for topics using the conventional AHCPR method; then six months later new guideline statements for four topics were created using the appropriateness method. Panelist satisfaction with each process and resulting set of guideline statements was assessed.
Principal findings: Results of the appropriateness method for TENS, discography, and traction showed no disagreement among panel members and no appropriate indications for their use in the patient scenarios considered. These results are qualitatively similar to the guideline statements produced using evidence tables and informal consensus. Clinical practice guideline statements about electro-diagnostics created from appropriateness ratings were much more clinically specific than those created using evidence tables and informal consensus. Neither informal consensus building nor the appropriateness method was clearly preferred by a majority of panelists.
Conclusions: It is feasible to use the appropriateness method in the AHCPR Clinical Practice Guideline Development process, and in some instances it produces more clinically specific guideline statements than does informal consensus.