Federal clinical guidance database to shut down because of funding cuts

AHRQ pulls the plug on National Guideline Clearinghouse because of funding cuts, but it could re-emerge with different support.

A reduction in federal funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is charged with improving the safety and quality of the nation’s healthcare system, has resulted in defunding of the National Guideline Clearinghouse, a public database of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines operated by AHRQ.

“This is a decision that was made by AHRQ leadership in response to our current budget and the Agency’s priorities, consistent with decisions AHRQ often has to make about how best to invest the resources at our disposal,” according to an agency spokesman.

NGC was originally created by AHRQ in partnership with the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Association of Health Plans (now America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). It has been in operation for 20 years.

The elimination of the clearinghouse comes as AHRQ faces an uncertain future. President Donald Trump's Fiscal Year 2019 budget calls for the elimination of AHRQ and its consolidation within the National Institutes of Health.

The web site for the NGC is still accessible, but a notice at the top of the page says that it will not be available after July 16 because “federal funding through AHRQ will no longer be available to support the NGC as of that date.” The NGC will continue “to post summaries of new and updated evidence-based clinical practice guidelines until July 2.”

AHRQ officials said they lacked the funds to continue the contract that supported the operations of the guidelines clearinghouse. However, a stripped-down version of the guidelines initiative still may go forward. “AHRQ is receiving expressions of interest from stakeholders interested in carrying on NGC's work,” says a notice on its web site. “It is not clear at this time, however, when or if NGC (or something like NGC) will be online again. In addition, AHRQ has not yet determined whether, or to what extent, the Agency would have an ongoing role if a stakeholder were to continue to operate the NGC.”

Since the funding announcement was made, AHRQ has heard from several stakeholders that built routines and processes around the presence of the NGC, so the agency is looking for some type of a viable service, according to the spokesman. “We are exploring a path or paths to sustain the NCG or some evolution of it, and will continue to do so.”

Also See: AHRQ to fund efforts to develop CDS sharing tools

The NGC summarized guidelines and how they were developed along with side-by-side comparison of attributes of two or more guidelines, and links to full-text guidelines.

The mobile device-friendly service gave users a weekly electronic mailing of new guidelines and updates to existing guidelines and technical assistance via video tutorials. Guidelines were available for a range of stakeholders that include clinicians, healthcare organizations and delivery systems, medical specialty and professional societies, employers and large purchasers, educational institutions and state and local governments.

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