Using a clinical practice guideline to measure physician practice: translating a guideline for the management of heart failure

J Am Board Fam Pract. 1997 May-Jun;10(3):206-12.


Background: Effective clinical practice guidelines should improve clinical outcomes, and measures of physician use of clinical practice guidelines should correlate with improved outcomes. This study translates a clinical practice guideline on heart failure into review criteria to measure physician performance and the effectiveness of the clinical practice guideline.

Methods: A panel of 11 family physicians and 1 cardiologist systematically reviewed the clinical practice guideline for its clinical importance, educational relevance, and evaluative appropriateness. Then a subset of 4 family physicians rigorously applied each recommendation to established criteria for measurability and developed an evaluation tool useful in medical record review.

Results: The heart failure clinical practice guideline was found to be an excellent educational tool. Using it to measure physician performance, however, was limited to diagnostic tests and drug prescribing. Of 45 recommendations, 5 fulfilled criteria for measurability; 1 recommendation had A-level evidence, whereas 2 recommendations had B-level and 2 had C-level evidence.

Conclusion: This study illustrates the logistic issues and challenges in developing a measure of physician adherence to clinical practice guidelines. Medical record review is inadequate to measure many recommendations. Physicians use of this clinical practice guideline must be evaluated as an intermediate step to measuring the effectiveness of clinical practice guidelines based on patient outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Family Practice / standards*
  • Heart Failure / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Medical Audit / methods*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • United States
  • United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality