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HIQA publishes a review of processes for updating Clinical Guidelines

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published its systematic review on the processes used internationally to update Clinical Guidelines.

This review was undertaken at the request of the National Clinical Effectiveness Committee (NCEC). It was part-funded by the Health Research Board.

Clinical guidelines are recommendations to support practitioner as well as patient decisions about appropriate health care. This is across the entire clinical pathway from diagnosis to treatment. It will often include recommendations regarding rehabilitation as well as follow-up care. They are based on current evidence and evaluate the benefits and harms related to the recommendations. As clinical guidelines are based on current knowledge, they will usually need to be updated to ensure they are up-to-date. In Ireland, national clinical guidelines published by the NCEC are currently updated every three years.

Updating clinical guidelines is time-consuming and resource-intensive. While most organisations use pre-defined time periods, there has been a gradual move away from this method to instead update guidelines based on the volume of new research published, the clinical burden, economic impact and the resources available.

HIQA’s review covers the last ten years and included 15 handbooks from international organisations who produce guidelines. We found the terminology and definitions used internationally are not standardised, and those who produce methods guidance should consider providing more comprehensive guidance for updating clinical guidelines.

Michelle O’Neill, HIQA’s Deputy Director of Health Technology Assessment, said: “Our findings will support the NCEC to optimise resources when they review their current methodologies for updating clinical guidelines.”

The full report can be found on our website,

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