ACC/AHA Special Report: Clinical Practice Guideline Implementation Strategies: A Summary of Systematic Reviews by the NHLBI Implementation Science Work Group: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines

Wiley V. Chan, Thomas A. Pearson, Glen C. Bennett, William C. Cushman, Thomas A. Gaziano, Paul N. Gorman, Joel Handler, Harlan M. Krumholz, Robert F. Kushner, Thomas D. MacKenzie, Ralph L. Sacco, Sidney C. Smith, Victor J. Stevens, Barbara L. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

33 Scopus citations


Background In 2008, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute convened an Implementation Science Work Group to assess evidence-based strategies for effectively implementing clinical practice guidelines. This was part of a larger effort to update existing clinical practice guidelines on cholesterol, blood pressure, and overweight/obesity. Objectives Review evidence from the published implementation science literature and identify effective or promising strategies to enhance the adoption and implementation of clinical practice guidelines. Methods This systematic review was conducted on 4 critical questions, each focusing on the adoption and effectiveness of 4 intervention strategies: (1) reminders, (2) educational outreach visits, (3) audit and feedback, and (4) provider incentives. A scoping review of the Rx for Change database of systematic reviews was used to identify promising guideline implementation interventions aimed at providers. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were developed a priori for each question, and the published literature was initially searched up to 2012, and then updated with a supplemental search to 2015. Two independent reviewers screened the returned citations to identify relevant reviews and rated the quality of each included review. Results Audit and feedback and educational outreach visits were generally effective in improving both process of care (15 of 21 reviews and 12 of 13 reviews, respectively) and clinical outcomes (7 of 12 reviews and 3 of 5 reviews, respectively). Provider incentives showed mixed effectiveness for improving both process of care (3 of 4 reviews) and clinical outcomes (3 reviews equally distributed between generally effective, mixed, and generally ineffective). Reminders showed mixed effectiveness for improving process of care outcomes (27 reviews with 11 mixed and 3 generally ineffective results) and were generally ineffective for clinical outcomes (18 reviews with 6 mixed and 9 generally ineffective results). Educational outreach visits (2 of 2 reviews), reminders (3 of 4 reviews), and provider incentives (1 of 1 review) were generally effective for cost reduction. Educational outreach visits (1 of 1 review) and provider incentives (1 of 1 review) were also generally effective for cost-effectiveness outcomes. Barriers to clinician adoption or adherence to guidelines included time constraints (8 reviews/overviews); limited staffing resources (2 overviews); timing (5 reviews/overviews); clinician skepticism (5 reviews/overviews); clinician knowledge of guidelines (4 reviews/overviews); and higher age of the clinician (1 overview). Facilitating factors included guideline characteristics such as format, resources, and end-user involvement (6 reviews/overviews); involving stakeholders (5 reviews/overviews); leadership support (5 reviews/overviews); scope of implementation (5 reviews/overviews); organizational culture such as multidisciplinary teams and low-baseline adherence (9 reviews/overviews); and electronic guidelines systems (3 reviews). Conclusion The strategies of audit and feedback and educational outreach visits were generally effective in improving both process of care and clinical outcomes. Reminders and provider incentives showed mixed effectiveness, or were generally ineffective. No general conclusion could be reached about cost effectiveness, because of limitations in the evidence. Important gaps exist in the evidence on effectiveness of implementation interventions, especially regarding clinical outcomes, cost effectiveness and contextual issues affecting successful implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1076-1092
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Feb 28 2017



  • ACC/AHA Clinical Practice Guideline
  • cost
  • detailing
  • effectiveness
  • evidence-based
  • incentives
  • interventions
  • reminders
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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