A nonpartisan patient safety organization on Monday launched a new clinical practice guidelines website, the ECRI Guidelines Trust, replacing the National Guideline Clearinghouse. The former online medical repository had been run by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality but was shuttered earlier this year.
The new portal from the ECRI Institute, which supports research on safety and effectiveness of drugs and medical devices, will include "expertly vetted, evidence-based guideline briefs and scorecards" for the healthcare community, according to the Pennsylvania-based nonprofit group's website.
Access will be free, although ECRI initially said it would charge a fee.
The ECRI Institute developed the resource in response to "urgent pleas" from the healthcare community following the shutdown of the NGC in July. The patient safety group was in a strong position to resuscitate the website — ECRI ran the NGC for two decades before it was defunded.
The loss of the NGC was a big one for the medical community, experts said at the time. The clearinghouse was a free resource for more than 200,000 visitors per month, compiling best practices and helpful resources from reputable organizations for doctors and researchers across the globe.
AHRQ blamed funding reductions for forcing the closure. But the now-defunct NGC's operating budget was only $1.2 million — small fry for HHS, which standalone would be the sixth-largest government on earth according to Secretary Alex Azar.
The NGC accounted for only 3.5% of AHRQ's operating budget for fiscal year 2018.
Introduced four months later, the ECRI Guidelines Trust is meant to be more than a rebrand of the NGC. When the website was shut down July 17, NGC records were inaccessible, according to ECRI. "The ECRI staff who had worked on NGC had to start over," said Karen M. Schoelles, director of the ECRI Guidelines Trust.
AHRQ liaison Alison Hunt told Healthcare Dive in July that NGC records would be retained and stored on a secure, backed-up network drive. However, AHRQ doesn't hold the copyrights to the guidelines and can't transfer the copyright to any other entity, a spokesperson told Healthcare Dive.
The new trust will include guidelines from medical professionals, guideline developers, medical specialty societies and more. All records will include something new: a TRUST Scorecard evaluating the rigor and transparency of the guideline to see how it compares to the Institute of Medicine standards.
The next wave for the trust comes next year and will add advanced search capabilities, a stronger user interface and more decision-making support to the online database. The ECRI Institute has reviewed and summarized almost 10,000 clinical practice guidelines since 1997.