Dissemination of Clinical Practice Guidelines: A Content Analysis of Patient Versions

Nancy Santesso (Corresponding Author), Gian Paolo Morgano, Susan M. Jack, R. Brian Haynes, Sophie Hill, Shaun Treweek, Holger J. Schünemann, DECIDE Workpackage 3 Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
8 Downloads (Pure)


Background. Clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) are typically written for health care professionals but are meant to assist patients with health care decisions. A number of guideline producers have started to develop patient versions of CPGs to reach this audience. Objective. To describe the content and purpose of patient versions of CPGs and compare with patient and public views of CPGs. Design. A descriptive qualitative study with a directed content analysis of a sample of patient versions of CPGs published and freely available in English from 2012 to 2014. Results. We included 34 patient versions of CPGs from 17 guideline producers. Over half of the patient versions were in dedicated patient sections of national/professional agency websites. There was essentially no information about how to manage care in the health care system. The most common purpose was to equip people with information about disease, tests or treatments, and recommendations, but few provided quantitative data about benefits and harms of treatments. Information about beliefs, values and preferences, accessibility, costs, or feasibility of the interventions was rarely addressed. Few provided personal stories or scenarios to personalize the information. Three versions described the strength of the recommendation or the level of evidence. Limitations. Our search for key institutions that produce patient versions of guidelines was comprehensive, but we only included English and freely available versions. Future work will include other languages. Conclusions. This review describes the current landscape of patient versions of CPGs and suggests that these versions may not address the needs of their targeted audience. Research is needed about how to personalize information, provide information about factors contributing to the recommendations, and provide access.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)697-702
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Decision Making
Issue number6
Early online date18 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Financial support for this study was provided to Nancy Santesso from a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Fellowship in Knowledge Translation. Financial support for this study was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Fellowship in Knowledge Translation and for the DECIDE project from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement number 258583. The funding agreement ensured the authors’ independence in designing the study, interpreting the data, writing, and publishing the report.


  • patient decision making
  • risk communication
  • risk perception
  • clinical practice guidelines
  • qualitative methods


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