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Solution Will Keep Most Clinical Guidelines Online, This Time for a Fee

Allison Inserro
A solution has been found to maintain a version of a free government website that has hosted clinical guidelines, but now users will have to pay for access.
A solution has been found to maintain a version of a free government website that has hosted clinical guidelines, but now users will have to pay for access.

ECRI Institute, the independent nonprofit organization that developed and maintained the AHRQ National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) website since it began in 1998, said it will take ownership of the site, but without government funding through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), an arm of HHS.

AHRQ, which saw its budget cut, also maintained the National Quality Measures Clearinghouse. Both sites closed July 16.

With the loss of federal funding, ECRI said on Twitter that access to the guidelines will have to come from institutional subscriptions, and “eventually individuals. We will do our best to keep costs down to make the price reasonable. ECRI is funding the development of our initial website and content to launch in the early fall.”

ECRI said participating guideline developers will be able to access and contribute to the website free of charge.

The organization said it will provide a centralized repository of current, evidence-based clinical practice guideline summaries and other information. It said it is planning an interim website for a launch in the fall and will add additional features.

Users will be able to search and retrieve ECRI’s summarizations of clinical practice guidelines from hundreds of participating guideline developers, and the site will include evaluations on the rigor and transparency of guidelines against the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) standards for trustworthiness, the institute said in a statement.

Close to 50 medical specialties were represented on the NGC site, with more than 1400 documents. To prepare for the shutdown, AHRQ stopped publishing summaries of new and updated evidence-based clinical practice guidelines at the beginning of July.

When it launched in 1998, the NGC site was described as a “science-based shortcut” offering access to thousands of clinical guidelines that had been carefully vetted by medical specialty associations, professional societies, public or private organizations, government agencies, or healthcare organizations or plans.

In the meantime, there are other ways to get the guidelines, which healthcare providers have used when they have questions about evidence-based care.

A private company said on Twitter that it has most of the NGC guideline summaries on its website at Guideline Central. And medical associations often host guidelines they have helped develop on their own websites, like oncology resources from the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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