Background. Clinical practice guidelines are increasingly being used for a wide variety of medical conditions, but not enough is known about physicians' attitudes and beliefs about guidelines, how often and under what circumstances they are used, and factors associated with their acceptance.
Objective. To determine practice guideline attitudes, beliefs, practices, and factors associated with use among a representative national sample of general pediatricians.
Study Design. Cross-sectional mail survey.
Subjects. Random sample of general pediatrician members of the American Academy of Pediatrics residing in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
Survey Instrument. Twenty-four multiple-choice, Likert scale, yes–no, and open-ended questions about pediatric clinical practice guidelines.
Results. From 1088 respondents, 461 specialists were excluded; the remaining 627 general pediatricians were mostly male (61%), white (81%), and in group practice (62%) in a suburban location (48%). Practice guidelines are used by 35% of pediatricians, in part by 44%, and not at all by 21%. Over 100 different practice guidelines are used, most commonly for asthma (77%), hyperbilirubinemia (27%), and otitis media (19%). Common reasons for use of practice guidelines include standardization of care (17%) and helpfulness (10%). Commonly cited problems with practice guidelines include failure to allow for clinical judgment (54%), use in litigation (16%), and limitation of autonomy (5%). In multivariate analysis, the odds of practice guideline use were greater among pediatricians in health maintenance organization practices (odds ratio [OR]: 9.1; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.2–68.0) and those who were nonwhite (OR: 2.3; 95% CI: 1.1–4.8), but lower in those with more weekly patient visits (OR: .7; 95% CI: .5–.9). Features most likely to lead to practice guideline use include simplicity (16%), feasibility (12%), and evidence of improved outcomes (10%). Most pediatricians agree that practice guidelines improve outcomes (89%), are motivated by a desire to improve quality (94%), and should not be used in litigation (82%) or disciplinary actions (77%), nor be motivated by a desire to reduce costs (73%).
Conclusions. Most general pediatricians use practice guidelines, but no specific guidelines, except those for asthma, are used by >27% of pediatricians. The results of this study suggest that practice guidelines are most likely to be followed if they are simple, flexible, rigorously tested, not used punitively, and are motivated by desires to improve quality, not reduce costs.
- Received June 21, 1999.
- Accepted September 3, 1999.
- Copyright © 2000 American Academy of Pediatrics