Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) are evidence-based recommendations intended to optimize patient care. These recommendations are informed by a systematic review of the literature and assessments of the benefits and harms of alternative care options. When coupled with clinical judgment and consideration for patient's preferences, CPGs reduce practice variation and improve patient-centered health outcomes. Despite the growing availability of CPGs, there is limited transfer of CPG recommendations into clinical practice. The objective of this article was to assist the acute care physical therapist with developing an understanding of the purpose and structure of CPGs and importance of incorporating CPG recommendations into clinical practice.
To achieve this objective, this article addresses the following 5 questions: (1) What are CPGs? (2) How are CPGs developed? (3) How are CPGs accessed? (4) How are CPG recommendations used by clinicians? and (5) What are the barriers to, and strategies for, implementing CPGs into mainstream acute care physical therapist practice?
Because the use of CPGs optimizes patient outcomes, we recommend physical therapists regard CPGs as key evidence-based resources and implement the relevant recommendations in the management of their patients and for coordination and collaboration with other members of the healthcare team.