AHRQ Shutters National Guideline Clearinghouse Because of Budget Cuts

July 24, 2018 by Elisa Becze BA, ELS, Editor

As of July 16, 2018, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ceased maintenance on guideline.gov, the website that housed the National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC). The website had been a resource for healthcare providers for more than 20 years.

The site was a well-referenced repository of clinical practice guidelines that gave healthcare providers easy access to specific recommendations for patient care. Guidelines were available for many types of diagnoses, including cancer care, from organizations such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and ONS. ONS’s Putting Evidence Into Practice (PEP) resources on pain management were accepted in 2017 and included on the website in 2018.

Pam Ginex, EdD, RN, OCN®, ONS’s senior manager of evidence-based practice and inquiry, said, “The rigorous and thorough review process to be accepted to NGC ensured that the guidelines included were reliable and trustworthy. It’s a testament to the rigor of our PEP program to have the pain guidelines on NGC.”

According to AHRQ, more than 200,000 healthcare providers accessed the website each month. It also offered providers summaries of 1,416 guidelines to give busy professionals quick access to critical information for patient care.

AHRQ cited a lack of funding as the reason for closing the website. Previously, the agency funded the clearinghouse with its dissemination and translation activities budget. However, that budget decreased by $5.6 million in 2015, so the funding source shifted to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund, created under the Affordable Care Act. But as AHRQ funding continued to be cut year over year, it could no longer justify supporting NGC. AHRQ reports that it needs $1.2 million annually to maintain the website.

Many professional medical societies have protested the NGC’s closing, and ONS has lobbied for increased AHRQ funding as part of its work with the Friends of the AHRQ Coalition.

To meet the now-vacant need, other resources are available, including Guideline Central as well a new guideline repository that the nonprofit ECRI Institute is building to open in fall 2018. ECRI Institute served as a contractor to AHRQ in developing and maintaining the original NGC. Visit the ECRI Institute’s guidelines page to sign up for updates on when the repository launches.


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