“Experts say the database of carefully curated medical guidelines is one of a kind, used constantly by medical professionals, and on July 16 will ‘go dark’ due to budget cuts.
The Trump Administration is planning to eliminate a vast trove of medical guidelines that for nearly 20 years has been a critical resource for doctors, researchers and others in the medical community. Maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ], part of the Department of Health and Human Services, the database is known as the National Guideline Clearinghouse [NGC], and it’s scheduled to “go dark,” in the words of an official there, on July 16. Medical guidelines like those compiled by AHRQ aren’t something laypeople spend much time thinking about, but experts like Valerie King, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Director of Research at the Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University, said the NGC is perhaps the most important repository of evidence-based research available. “Guideline.gov was our go-to source, and there is nothing else like it in the world,” King said, referring to the URL at which the database is hosted, which the agency says receives about 200,000 visitors per month. “It is a singular resource,” King added. Medical guidelines are best thought of as cheatsheets for the medical field, compiling the latest research in an easy-to use format. When doctors want to know when they should start insulin treatments, or how best to manage an HIV patient in unstable housing — even something as mundane as when to start an older patient on a vitamin D supplement — they look for the relevant guidelines. The documents are published by a myriad of professional and other organizations, and NGC has long been considered among the most comprehensive and reliable repositories in the world. AHRQ said it’s looking for a partner that can carry on the work of NGC, but that effort hasn’t panned out yet. “AHRQ agrees that guidelines play an important role in clinical decision making, but hard decisions had to be made about how to use the resources at our disposal,” said AHRQ spokesperson Alison Hunt in an email. The operating budget for the NGC last year was $1.2 million, Hunt said, and reductions in funding forced the agency’s hand.”