U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Launches New Clinical Guideline Assessment Tool through Contract to ECRI Institute

NEATS Instrument highlights trustworthiness of guidelines in AHRQ’s National Guideline Clearinghouse

November 16, 2017

PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA—The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), under contract with ECRI Institute, announces the launch of the National Guideline Clearinghouse Extent Adherence to Trustworthy Standards (NEATS) Instrument.

The new National Guideline Clearinghouse™ (NGC™) tool, the NEATS Instrument, assesses the extent to which a guideline adheres to the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) standards for trustworthy evidence-based clinical guidelines. The resulting NEATS assessments give clinicians, educators, policymakers, payers, and patients a way to gauge their confidence in a specific clinical practice guideline.

"These quick-glance assessments make it easier for users to judge what lies behind recommendations of guidelines, and to choose the most rigorously developed ones with a goal of improving healthcare quality and outcomes for patients," says Karen Schoelles, MD, SM, FACP, director, ECRI Institute-Penn Medicine Evidence-based Practice Center, and project director, National Guideline Clearinghouse.

The NEATS instrument scrutinizes a set of standards that guideline developers should strive to meet, including full disclosure of funding sources and financial conflicts of interest. The tool assesses a number of specific actions, including whether the guideline developer assembled a multidisciplinary guideline development group, engaged in a systematic review of the evidence, and appropriately rated the strength of the recommendations.

"Guideline developers now receive an independent judgment about the trustworthiness of their guidelines, which they can use to benchmark their guideline development process against. This should enable them to more rigorously construct guidelines that work to improve patient care, safety, and outcomes," says Mary Nix, deputy director, Division of Practice Improvement and management lead for the National Guideline Clearinghouse, Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement, AHRQ.

All NEATS assessments are performed by a group of specially trained NGC staff, ensuring strong consistency and reliability. Guideline developers are included in the process to improve accuracy and completeness.

The instrument was developed by ECRI Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to researching the best approaches to patient care, through support and input from AHRQ and the NGC Editorial Board. It is applied to guidelines that have been accepted into NGC after March 2017.

AHRQ’s NGC website ( is known as the No. 1 place to go to search for evidence-based clinical practice guidelines and receives about 2.3 million annual visits. The site provides clinicians, researchers, and others with access to more than 1,500 guideline summaries in NGC at no cost. ECRI Institute developed, maintains, and enhances the NGC under contract to AHRQ.

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About ECRI Institute
ECRI Institute (, a nonprofit organization, dedicates itself to bringing the discipline of applied scientific research to healthcare to discover which medical procedures, devices, drugs, and processes enable improved patient care. As pioneers in this science for 50 years, ECRI Institute marries experience and independence with the objectivity of evidence-based research. Strict conflict-of-interest guidelines ensure objectivity. ECRI Institute is designated an Evidence-based Practice Center by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. ECRI Institute PSO is listed as a federally certified Patient Safety Organization by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. ECRI Institute convened and operates the Partnership for Health IT Patient Safety, a multi-stakeholder collaborative.

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