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A systematic approach to implementing and evaluating clinical guidelines: The results of fifteen years of Preventive Child Health Care guidelines in the Netherlands

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Author: Fleuren, M.A.H. · Dommelen, P. van · Dunnink, T.
Source:Social Science and Medicine, 136-137, 35-43
Identifier: 525235
doi: DOI:10.1016/j.socscimed.2015.05.001
Keywords: Health · Implementation · Determinants · Evaluation · Clinical practice guidelines · Involving stakeholders · Healthy for Life · Healthy Living · Life · LS - Life Style · ELSS - Earth, Life and Social Sciences


Preventive Child Health Care (PCHC) services are delivered to all children in the Netherlands by approximately 5500 doctors, nurses and doctor's assistants. In 1996, The Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports asked for the development of evidence-based PCHC guidelines. Since 1998, twenty-five guidelines have been published. Levels of implementation affect outcomes and so implementation and evaluation of the actual use of guidelines are essential. At the outset, there was a national implementation plan with six main activities: a) determinant analysis before the implementation of a guideline, b) innovation strategies tailored to the determinants, c) dissemination to all professionals, d) ongoing evaluation of the awareness and use of the guidelines, e) trained implementation coordinator(s) in each PCHC organization and f) a national help desk. The awareness and use of the guidelines in random samples of doctors, nurses and doctor's assistants were surveyed using questionnaires. The respondents stated (on a 7-point scale) the proportion of all children they had exposed to given core elements in a guideline. The aim is for at least 90% of the professionals to be aware of the guideline and for 80% to perform the core elements for all (or nearly all) children. The six main activities, with the exception of ongoing evaluation, were gradually put into place, albeit only gradually, between 1998 and 2015 for all guidelines. In 2012, the use of individual core elements in all guidelines, dating from before 2012, varied from 28% to 100%. One guideline met both criteria of 90% awareness and 80% use, and three guidelines nearly met these criteria. Looking back on fifteen years of PCHC guidelines, we may conclude that the guidelines produced recently are implemented in accordance with the national implementation plan. Unfortunately, the evaluation of guideline use continues to be a difficulty.