The Importance of Translating Clinical Guidelines into Practice

By Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer at American Heart Association


The American Heart Association (AHA) is hosting its annual Scientific Sessions on November 7-11, 2015, and one area of focus this year is the appropriate implementation of clinical guidelines by healthcare providers in support of patients’ cardiovascular (CV) health.

Guidelines within the CV community are important as they provide clinicians with summaries of clinical research and therapeutic recommendations. For patients living with CV disease (CVD), diagnosis can be complicated and guidelines help clinicians translate data into practice, ensuring that appropriate care is given across the broad spectrum of CVD.

The clinical community also looks for guidelines to be a tool to help build consistency in practice. However, implementing guidelines can sometimes be easier said than done, and so, organizations often study guidelines in a real-world setting to understand where challenges lie.

For example, one AstraZeneca-sponsored study, which was presented at this year’s conference, takes a deeper dive into the American College of Cardiology (ACC)/AHA Cholesterol management guideline, published in 2013. This guideline reinforced the importance of lowering cholesterol by utilizing valuable resources to help save millions of people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world.

The study showed that the ACC/AHA guideline appeared to have a modest effect among new users immediately following its publication. However, the researchers concluded that follow-up in future years to fully assess the impact of the ACC/AHA guideline is warranted.

Studies like this reinforce the need for continued resources that increase the lifespan of guidelines beyond the initial issue date. We know that when medical professionals apply up-to-date, evidence-based treatment guidelines to their practice, patient outcomes improve. Speedy implementation of guidelines is important to allow patients to receive the most updated, efficacious treatments and care.

AHA is committed to addressing this problem through various programs, including the Guideline Transformation and Optimization Initiative (GTO) for non ST-segment elevation acute coronary syndrome (NSTE-ACS) guidelines. NSTE-ACS is a type of heart attack, also referred to as myocardial infarction, which occurs when an artery is partially blocked and severely reduces blood flow.

GTO, supported by a grant from AstraZeneca, is officially launching at this year’s conference. The initiative seeks to accelerate the application of updated science and provides an integrated, collaborative approach to transform clinical guidelines into practice. We believe that by doing so, this will drive better health outcomes, increase patient satisfaction and contribute to AHA’s goal to reduce mortality from CV diseases and stroke by 20 percent by 2020. Our comprehensive, coordinated approach will:

  • Innovate processes that will accelerate guidelines into practice
  • Activate medical professionals to leverage science faster and measure clinical effectiveness and quality, and
  • Empower patients and caregivers to better manage health and participate in care coordination

By spearheading initiatives like GTO, AstraZeneca and the AHA demonstrate our commitment to putting patients first by ensuring the most advanced treatments and care reach the patients who need them.