15 Jun 08
By R A Freedman, L S Gettes, A. Marc Gillinov, G Gregoratos, A E Epstein, J P DiMarco et al.
It is important that the medical profession play a significant role in critically evaluating the use of diagnostic procedures and therapies as they are introduced and tested in the detection, management, or prevention of disease states. Rigorous and expert analysis of the available data documenting absolute and relative benefits and risks of those procedures and therapies can produce helpful guidelines that improve the effectiveness of care, optimize patient outcomes, and favorably affect the overall cost of care by focusing resources on the most effective strategies.
The American College of Cardiology Foundation (ACCF) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have jointly engaged in the production of such guidelines in the area of cardiovascular disease since 1980. The American College of Cardiology (ACC)/AHA Task Force on Practice Guidelines, whose charge is to develop, update, or revise practice guidelines for important cardiovascular diseases and procedures, directs this effort. Writing committees are charged with the task of performing an assessment of the evidence and acting as an independent group of authors to develop, update, or revise written recommendations for clinical practice.
Experts in the subject under consideration have been selected from both organizations to examine subject-specific data and write guidelines. The process includes additional representatives from other medical practitioner and specialty groups when appropriate. Writing committees are specifically charged to perform a formal literature review, weigh the strength of evidence for or against a particular treatment or procedure, and include estimates of expected health outcomes where data exist. Patient-specific modifiers and comorbidities and issues of patient preference that may influence the choice of particular tests or therapies are considered, as well as frequency of follow-up and cost-effectiveness. When available, information from studies on cost will be considered; however, review of data on efficacy and clinical outcomes will constitute the primary basis for preparing recommendations in these guidelines.
The ACC/AHA Task Force on Practice Guidelines makes every effort to avoid any actual, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest that may arise as a result of an industry relationship or personal interest of the writing committee. Specifically, all members of the writing committee, as well as peer reviewers of the document, were asked to provide disclosure statements of all such relationships that may be perceived as real or potential conflicts of interest. Writing committee members are also strongly encouraged to declare a previous relationship with industry that may be perceived as relevant to guideline development. If a writing committee member develops a new relationship with industry during his or her tenure, he or she is required to notify guideline staff in writing. The continued participation of the writing committee member will be reviewed. These statements are reviewed by the parent task force, reported orally to all members of the writing committee at each meeting, and updated and reviewed by the writing committee as changes occur. Please refer to the methodology manual for ACC/AHA guideline writing committees for further description of the relationships with industry policy. See Appendix 1 for author relationships with industry and Appendix 2 for peer reviewer relationships with industry that are pertinent to this guideline.
These practice guidelines are intended to assist health care providers in clinical decision making by describing a range of generally acceptable approaches for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of specific diseases or conditions. Clinical decision making should consider the quality and availability of expertise in the area where care is provided. These guidelines attempt to define practices that meet the needs of most patients in most circumstances. These guideline recommendations reflect a consensus of expert opinion after a thorough review of the available current scientific evidence and are intended to improve patient care.
Patient adherence to prescribed and agreed upon medical regimens and lifestyles is an important aspect of treatment. Prescribed courses of treatment in accordance with these recommendations will only be effective if they are followed. Because lack of patient understanding and adherence may adversely affect treatment outcomes, physicians and other health care providers should make every effort to engage the patient in active participation with prescribed medical regimens and lifestyles.
If these guidelines are used as the basis for regulatory or payer decisions, the ultimate goal is quality of care and serving the patient’s best interests. The ultimate judgment regarding care of a particular patient must be made by the health care provider and the patient in light of all of the circumstances presented by that patient. There are circumstances in which deviations from these guidelines are appropriate.