On November 19, ECRI launched a new version of the National Guidelines Clearinghouse (NGC), now redeveloped into the ECRI Guidelines Trust. The NGC was previously funded and maintained by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and was a well respected single aggregated point of access to medical practice association developed evidence-based guidelines for medical and health practices. It was freely available to all users. In the summer of 2017, the AHRQ’s budget was reduced and support for maintaining and hosting the Clearinghouse ended. Shortly afterward, the non-profit ECRI Institute promised to work with AHRQ to take up and continue this project. The ECRI Institute became involved because they actually built and maintained the database on ARHQ’s behalf and had been the sole contractor involved for the 20 years or so of its existence as a government utility.
The new site is easy to use and is freely available. It does require registration, but allows the choice of “medical librarian” as a profession in the registration screen. After running an initial search, results can be refined by a number of different filters, including whether it was scored for quality of evidence using their detailed TRUST algorithm. Some listed guidelines are not scored; either they do not meet all standards for inclusion despite respectable sources, or their developers denied permission. It’s easy to tell whether they are scored or not, but this might be confusing for people who don’t realize that some findable guidelines do not actually meet their standards for full inclusion. It’s also very easy to find information about their process and standards, but you do have to know enough to want to look for the information.
The return of this well-used resource is very welcome, but ECRI will need resources to be able to continue its production. Users at institutions that can afford to pay large amounts of money often have access to these guidelines through resources like ClinicalKey, but other users have had to spend a great deal of time and effort seeking them out and evaluating them individually from a wide variety of sources. The Clearinghouse’s users include many who are unable to pay a large subscription fee for a resource like this.