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The effectiveness of clinical guideline implementation strategies – a synthesis of systematic review findings


Professor K. Grimmer-Somers
Director, Centre for Allied Health Evidence
University of South Australia
City East Campus, North Tce
Adelaide 5000


Objective  To establish the effectiveness of clinical guideline implementation strategies.

Data sources/study setting  Systematic reviews in full text, English language, 1987–2007, reporting any measure of clinical process change or cost–benefit analysis.

Study design  Overview of secondary evidence

Data collection/extraction methods  Independent critical appraisal using AMSTAR, primary author undertaking all data extraction using a purpose-built form.

Principal findings  We identified 144 potential papers, from which 33 systematic reviews were included. These reflected 714 primary studies involving 22 512 clinicians, in a range of health care settings. Implementation strategies were varied, rarely comparable, with variable outcomes. Effective implementation strategies included multifaceted interventions, interactive education and clinical reminder systems. Didactic education and passive dissemination strategies were ineffective. Cost-effectiveness studies were rare.

Conclusions  Successful guideline implementation strategies should be multifaceted, and actively engage clinicians throughout the process.