Clinical Practice Guidelines and Standards of Care
Clinical practice guidelines are statements developed by third-party organizations such as these:
While guidelines identify and describe generally recommended courses of intervention, they are not presented as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other knowledgeable healthcare professional or provider.
Guidelines are usually created by a panel of experts looking at all the evidence for or against a therapy. A systematic review is conducted using rigorous evidence-based methodology. The strength of evidence for each recommendation explicitly stated. Reviewers conduct an assessment of the benefits and harms of therapies and treatments.
Guidelines serve several purposes, including these:
SIO Recommendation Grades
The Society for Integrative Oncology grades therapies according to the evidence of benefit or harm, with a corresponding recommendation for or against use. This is a typical grading system, although the grade labels vary among publications:1
- Assist practitioners and patients in making decisions about appropriate health care for specific clinical circumstances
- Define for healthcare professionals the role of specific diagnostic and treatment modalities in the diagnosis and management of patients.
Standards of Care
A standard of care is “a diagnostic and treatment process that a clinician should follow for a certain type of patient, illness, or clinical circumstance.”3 Standards of care are often called on in malpractice or other legal actions wishing to show that a healthcare provider failed to provide care or performed harmful actions outside reasonable and customary established standards. A 2011 article provided this legal interpretation: “the standard of care is what a minimally competent physician in the same field would do in the same situation, with the same resources.”4
Written by Nancy Hepp, MS. Updated January 7, 2019.
- Society for Integrative Oncology: Integrative Oncology Guidelines
- National Comprehensive Cancer Network: NCCN Guidelines®
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Clinical Practice Guideline Manual
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Clinical Practice Guidelines
- Raymond Chang, MD: Beyond the Magic Bullet: The Anti-Cancer Cocktail