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What Are the Different Types of Practice Guidelines?

By Valerie Clark
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Different practice guidelines are used for different procedures and treatments, typically associated with some aspect of the healthcare industry. Given a certain circumstance, a practitioner can rely on his field's respective guidelines as an educational and professional resource. Other types of guidelines are regarded as procedural statements that describe a particular method of treatment. The type of treatment being administered and the associated risk involved often are associated with how regulated the treatment is and, thus, the intention of the practice guidelines. Regardless of how different the treatments may be, they all are generally used to ensure standard procedures are followed and quality parameters are met.

Practice guidelines are issued by highly regarded organizations that provide evidence-based recommendations for treatment procedures and documentation. Treatment guidelines are common throughout the healthcare field, but the extent to which they are enforced can vary greatly. Regulatory guidelines for clinical research are generally issued and enforced by a governing body as a means of quality assurance and documentation. Clinical treatment guidelines can be defined as a set of systematic statements developed to assist practitioners and patients make informed decisions about appropriate health care. Psychology treatment guidelines are designed to educate and advise practitioners about professional conduct.

While no two practice guidelines are identical, there are some similarities that can be drawn upon for comparison. For instance, many practice guidelines entail a detailed documentation process for every procedure performed as part of a treatment. When the practice guidelines are intended to be an educational or professional resource, the recommending body may provide evidence-based assessments and advice that is generally accepted as reliable and true throughout the industry. If a regulatory review to ensure compliance with a specific set of practice guidelines is anticipated, then great measures are taken to have documentation that reflects the quality of treatment administered.

Within the field of medicine alone, there are a vast number of different practice guidelines for a variety of treatments and procedures. This is seen in the development of a new pharmaceutical drug versus the production of a homeopathic tincture. The regulatory authority has a much deeper probe into the developmental process of a new pharmaceutical than it does with homeopathic tinctures, largely because homeopathic medicines contain very little, if any, so-called "active" ingredients. Pharmaceuticals contain potentially dangerous levels of active ingredients, so the formulation, testing and manufacturing procedures are regulated in the U.S. by what are termed “Good Laboratory Practices” (GLPs) and “Good Manufacturing Practices” (GMPs).

The type of practice guideline to be followed for a particular treatment under a specific circumstance is often associated with the level of risk involved. With psychological treatments, the level of risk may be considered relatively low. With pharmaceuticals, the potential for adverse effects is markedly higher than that of a psychiatric evaluation, and with that comes more rigid practice guidelines.

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Discussion Comments

By thomastran — On Dec 07, 2012

As with the pharmaceutical industry, the nutraceutical industry has some guidelines, too.

A couple of years ago, the FDA mandated Good Manufacturing Practices that each nutraceutical manufacturer is mandated to follow. The guidelines are stringent and laden with paperwork but it has definitely raised the standard of manufacturing in the nutraceutical industry. These higher standards have also instilled greater consumer confidence. FDA is making sure that all manufacturers are following GMPs through regular inspections.

A GMP-certified manufacturing facility adheres to FDA standards of quality manufacturing but there are manufacturers that go the extra mile by getting third-party certification as well.

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