With the advent of health care's "era of accountability", the chiropractic profession is now faced with generating implicit standards and guidelines for care or having it done for us by outside agencies. Already we see chiropractic groups in individual states and provinces being pressured into naive efforts of guideline development. Current knowledge and experience are available through recent health care literature that clearly defines the structure and process of guideline development and offers suggestions on how to measure outcomes of those processes. In addition, the United States Congress has directed a new federal agency to oversee this activity and monitor outcomes of quality improvement programs. The time has come for the chiropractic profession to define its exact role in health care delivery and develop implicit standards of care and practice guidelines. This sentinel effort should be managed by a commissioned body of empaneled experts that generally represent the academic and clinical chiropractic profession. A protocol for selection of these panelists and the panel chairperson needs to be developed and memorialized. Appropriate methodology (with definitions) needs to be developed for the process of standards/guideline development. Adherence to the accepted structure and process of guideline development will ensure the continuity of this dynamic process in the coming generations. This proposal offers a preliminary definition of the structure and process, including a "seed" policy statement and decision flow chart, specific to guideline development. Once the structure and process of guideline development for chiropractic are defined, the profession can then present this product to federal and state agencies, private sector health care purchasers, patient advocacy groups and other stakeholders of chiropractic care.
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