Background Clinical guidelines are important for ensuring quality of treatment and care. For this reason, it is essential that clinicians adhere to guidelines. Review studies conclude that barriers to using guidelines are context specific. Nevertheless, there is a lack of studies that compare the attitudes of different groups of doctors to guidelines.
Objectives To survey the attitudes of Norwegian medical practitioners to clinical guidelines and the reasons for any scepticism, and to compare general practitioners (GPs) with other medical doctors in Norway in this respect.
Method Postal questionnaire to a panel of 1649 Norwegian medical doctors.
Results 1072 doctors responded (65%). 97% claimed to be familiar with and following guidelines. A majority expressed confidence in guidelines issued by the health authorities and the medical association. GPs are significantly more uncertain about the legal status of, accessibility of and evidence in guidelines than other doctors. The most important barriers to guideline adherence are concerns about the uniqueness of individual cases and reliance on one's own professional discretion. Both groups rank attitudinal constraints higher than practical constraints, but GPs more often report practical issues as reasons for non-adherence.
Conclusion It is suggested that creating trust in guidelines could be more important than more efforts to improve guideline format and accessibility. It may also be worth considering whether guidelines should be implemented using different processes in generalist and specialist care.
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Funding The Uni Rokkan Centre (Nygaardsgt 5, 5015 Bergen, Norway) and The Research Institute of the Norwegian Medical Association (PO Box 1152 Sentrum, 0107 Oslo, Norway).
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Regarding ethical considerations, the survey has obtained licence from the Privacy Ombudsman against the licence requirements of the Data Inspectorate in relation to the Personal Data Act and Health Register Act. The Privacy Ombudsman decided that it was not relevant to apply for ethical permission from the Regional Committees for Medical Research Ethics as the project is not within biomedical research and is not including patient data.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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