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ECRI to take over critical online resource of evidence-based guidelines


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On Monday, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), as it had previously announced it would do, shut down its operation of the National Guidelines Clearinghouse (NGC). But, just a day later, ECRI Institute announced it will take over sponsorship of the clearinghouse sometime this fall.

AHRQ shut down both the NGC and the National Quality Measures Clearinghouse when federal funding to operate the two critical online databases ran out. For more than two decades, hospitals, clinicians, and others in healthcare have used the two clearinghouses to find vetted, evidence-based information on which to set policy, create clinical treatment plans, and objectively measure quality outcomes.

ECRI Institute, a nonprofit patient safety organization in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., has worked for the federal government since NGC was established to develop and maintain the guidelines database. And after the funding was cut, ECRI worked behind the scenes to address concerns in the healthcare industry about the loss of such a critical resource.

ECRI announced Tuesday that it was ready to launch what it called an interim website this fall to allow continued access to the NGC information.

“ECRI Institute’s team of highly trained guideline and measure experts are taking the lead to ensure the global healthcare community has access to guidelines,” says Karen M. Schoelles, MD, SM, FACP, director, ECRI Institute-Penn Medicine Evidence-based Practice Center and director of ECRI’s Health Technology Assessment Consulting Services.

ECRI’s announcement promises that the “institute’s new guideline resource will provide a centralized repository of current, properly vetted evidence-based clinical practice guideline summaries and other information. An interim website will launch this fall, with many additional features planned for the near future.”

“The initial site will enable users to search and retrieve ECRI’s summarizations of clinical practice guidelines from hundreds of participating guideline developers, and will include unbiased evaluations on the rigor and transparency of guidelines against the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) standards for trustworthiness,” announced ECRI.

The future phase of the ECRI site “will feature advanced search capabilities, support for guideline implementation and decision-making, and an enhanced user interface,” added ECRI.

As for the quality measures database, that future is less certain. But ECRI is hopeful about that, as well.
“We will focus on guidelines first but do want to include quality measures in the future,” says Schoelles. “We will be providing tools for developing quality measures from guideline recommendations within the next year.”

Editor's note: This article first appeared in Inside the Joint Commission, an H3.Group newsletter.