Clinical Practice Guidelines – Physician Non-Compliance

Physicians are expected to adhere to certain standards of treatment in their medical practices. These clinical practice guidelines of appropriate treatment are developed by health care experts and professional organizations and are typically understood to set the minimum standard of care.

Clinical practice guidelines are often introduced as the legal standard of care in medical malpractice cases. However, compliance with these guidelines should not provide physicians and hospitals with complete immunity from medical negligence claims.

Research by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that guidelines do not significantly alter physician behavior and that they struggle to adhere to them. Many barriers exist that keep physicians from following guidelines, particularly the inability to keep up with the vast amount of medical literature that may present as confusing, a lack of familiarity with the guidelines that prevents physicians from knowing how to follow them, and a lack of agreement that the guideline is indeed an appropriate treatment for a medical condition. As many as 16 percent of physicians simply refuse to adhere to them at all. Guidelines concerning mammograms, for instance, were formally rejected in by more than 40 leading medical centers within 48 hours of their introduction.

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