A systematically developed statement designed to assist clinician and patient decisions about appropriate health care for specific clinical circumstances.
Guidelines should be based on evidence, combined with local knowledge to ensure that they are appropriate for local conditions.
A medical guideline (also called a clinical guideline, clinical protocol, or clinical practice guideline) is a document with the aim of guiding decisions and criteria regarding diagnosis, management, and treatment in specific areas of health care.
They have been in use during the entire history of medicine. However, in contrast to previous approaches, which were often based on tradition or authority, modern medical guidelines are based on an examination of current evidence within the paradigm of evidence-based medicine.
They usually include summarized consensus statements on best practice in health care. A health care provider is obliged to know the medical guidelines of his or her profession, and has to decide whether or not to follow the recommendations of a guideline for an individual treatment.
Clinical guidelines aim at supporting clinical decisions of health care professionals (including providers) and patients/consumers on interventions for specific clinical conditions, discouraging inappropriate practices and improving coordination between different providers.
They are tools to assist in a process and towards an outcome - they provide steps and tools for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.
World Health Organization. European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. Glossary. 2009.