Months after AHRQ shuttered National Guideline Clearinghouse data, ECRI launches a new version

Doctor computer keyboard
ECRI Institute has launched its Guidelines Trust, offering open access to clinical guidance. (Getty/jacoblund)

The ECRI Institute has officially launched a new database of clinical practice guidelines following the closure of the National Guideline Clearinghouse.

But getting the database—used by doctors to help determine appropriate treatments—up and running again wasn’t an easy task.

Though ECRI built and maintained the clearinghouse used by doctors in contract with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, when the NGC closed in July, the data became inaccessible, the organization said. That's because when the government site closed down, ECRI had to go back and request permission from the sources of the content in the clearinghouse before they were allowed to use it.

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So for now, what has been dubbed the ECRI Guidelines Trust has launched in a fairly bare-bones form, but it will be updated continuously with new guidelines over the next several months and into the coming years, Karen Schoelles, M.D., director of the trust and ECRI Institute-Penn Medicine Evidence-Based Practice Center, told FierceHealthcare. 

The goal in getting the site up and running quickly was to prevent a long lag between the NGC’s closure and the new site’s launch, Schoelles said. 

“We wanted to go ahead and get it launched while we continue to flesh it out,” she said. 

The trust was made available to the public Monday, and at present houses more than 300 pieces of guidance. In addition to adding more guidelines, the institute intends to continue evolving the interface to make it more user-friendly, Schoelles said.

RELATED: Want to speed adoption of new evidence-based care guidelines? Try getting insurers and providers to work together 

Future updates to the ECRI Guidelines Trust will seek to make the information digestible and usable in different clinical settings. Schoelles said that includes offering guidance in graphic forms and adapting it to better meet the needs of physicians, nurses or different hospitals. 

It is also aiming to provide a more “layered” interface that can allow users to get more granular if they choose, and to provide a more in-depth look at why guidelines may differ between organizations. 

“The overriding principle is that we’d like people to be able to find evidence-based information to guide clinical practice and understand how to use it—and the understanding how to use it piece is what we want to do longer term,” she said. 

ECRI also wants to take the data and build effective ways to use it in clinical decision support, Schoelles said. 

In addition to providing tools that can help providers “do the right thing” in diagnostics and other clinical decision-making, having clinical practice guidelines integrated into electronic health records call also allow for quality measurement and benchmarking, Schoelles said. 

RELATED: More than 40 healthcare organizations team up to improve diagnostics 

ECRI will also evaluate guidelines submitted to the database on its TRUST (Transparency and Rigor Using Standards of Trustworthiness) Scorecards, which will compare the guidance against standards set by the Institute of Medicine. It used a similar tool for the NGC to review guidance. 

Offering such reviews, Schoelles said, allows providers that access the guidelines to feel more confident in the data and its effectiveness, and ensure they’re picking guidance that best meets their needs. 

“It’s important for people to decide, when recommendations differ, which one they feel more confident in,” Schoelles said.

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