Background. Despite their growing influence on patient management and outcomes, very little is known about patients’ perceptions of clinical guidelines. This is a significant omission, particularly for services advocating patient-centred care and informed decision making. Objectives. To explore the knowledge and attitudes of women with menstrual disorders towards the use of evidence-based clinical guidelines for their condition. Methods. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with women with menstrual disorders. Results. Some women were not aware of the existence of clinical guidelines for their condition. Many were unsure as to their exact nature. The most consistent interpretation of guidelines was as a ‘set of rules’. Numerous positive aspects of the use of guidelines were identified, for example, ensuring quality and safety for patients, earlier diagnosis, reducing waiting times and improving continuity of care. Negative views involved seeing guidelines as a tool for rationing and concerns over inflexibility. Patients recognized that implementation of guidelines in general practice can be problematic, especially if resources are not made available. An unmet need for information became apparent in this group of patients. Many women felt that they should have access to guidelines that are being used in their medical care and that guidelines had the potential to act as an information resource for patients. Conclusions. A patient-centred service should endeavour to increase patient awareness of the existence and use of clinical guidelines. A patient version of clinical guidelines may be useful in promoting patients involvement in decision making and may improve outcomes.
Bibliographical noteThe full text is available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/fampra/cmp090
- clinical guidelines
- menstrual disorders