American College of Physicians develops COVID-based guidelines

April 8, 2022

Since 2003, the American College of Physicians (ACP) has used Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) research to create clinical guidelines for its physician members.

Just within the last 10 years, ACP has used 16 of AHRQ’s Evidence-based Practice Centers (EPC) Program systematic reviews to create clinical policies on a wide variety of topics. These include rapidly evolving COVID-19 practice points, which ACP developed in record time as a result of AHRQ’s work.

With 161,000 members worldwide, ACP is the largest medical specialty society in the world. Its members are specialist and subspecialist internal medicine physicians who care for adults. ACP has the oldest clinical guidelines program in the country and was one of the first organizations in the United States to develop evidence-based clinical guidelines in 1981.

“Developing guidelines is an expensive endeavor. ACP appreciates the AHRQ EPC program, as it helped us develop clinical guidelines on many important clinical topics,” said Amir Qaseem, M.D., Ph.D., ACP’s chief science officer. He also leads ACP’s Clinical Policy division and its Center for Evidence Reviews.

“Working with AHRQ is incredibly important to ACP. We have seen this relationship evolve over the years to address emerging issues, such as COVID,” noted Kate Carroll, M.P.H., ACP’s manager of clinical policy.

Building on ACP’s long history collaborating with AHRQ, the organization was able to move quickly in its formulation, development, and publication of peer-reviewed COVID practice points, Carroll said. ACP worked with AHRQ to update their practice points as evidence was emerging and being incorporated into rapid updates of AHRQ’s evidence reviews.

As a result, ACP published its first COVID practice points for physicians in May 2020, just 2 months after the official start of the pandemic in the United States. The fast response was “a first for us,” Carroll noted.

“When COVID-19 began, we collaborated with AHRQ for work that is methodologically sound, evidence-based, high quality, and unbiased. We need to avoid duplication of efforts or messages during this pandemic amid widespread misinformation. This was a major—very challenging—endeavor,” Dr. Qaseem said.

All of the clinical policies that ACP has developed based on AHRQ systematic reviews have been published in its Annals of Internal Medicine. This medical journal has a broad international audience of primary care physicians. Carroll noted, “Annals is the most cited and highest ranked general internal medicine journal and is among the most influential journals in the world.”

“The high-quality work AHRQ does with its systematic reviews is invaluable to ACP,” Dr. Qaseem said, noting that just in the last year or so, ACP has published five clinical policies based on AHRQ research.

Most recently, ACP published two clinical guidelines on diverticulitis. Other previous topics based on AHRQ research include depression, diabetes, kidney disease, pressure ulcers, and back pain.

AHRQ release

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