Accessibility, inclusivity, and implementation of COVID-19 clinical management guidelines early in the pandemic: a global survey
Pilbeam C., Malden D., Newell K., Dagens A., Kennon K., Michelen M., Gobat N., Sigfrid L.
Background: With a rapidly changing evidence base, high-quality clinical management guidelines (CMGs) are key tools for aiding clinical decision making and increasing access to best available evidence-based care. A rapid review of COVID-19 CMGs found most lacked methodological rigour, overlooked at-risk populations, and varied in treatment recommendations. Furthermore, social science literature highlights the complexity of implementing guidelines in local contexts where they were not developed and the resulting potential to compound health inequities. This study aimed to evaluate access to, inclusivity of, and implementation of COVID-19 CMGs in different settings. Methods: A cross-sectional survey of clinicians worldwide was conducted from 15th June to 20th July 2020, to explore access to and implementation of COVID-19 CMGs, and treatment and supportive care recommendations provided. Data on accessibility, inclusivity, and implementation of CMGs were analysed by geographic location. Results: 76 clinicians from 27 countries responded: 82% from high-income countries, 17% from lower middle-income countries (LMICs). Most respondents reported access to COVID-19 CMGs and confidence in their implementation. However, many respondents, particularly from LMICs, reported barriers to implementation, including limited access to treatment and equipment. Only 20% of respondents reported having access to CMGs covering care for children, 25% for pregnant women, and 50% for older adults (>65 years). Identified themes were for CMGs to include recommendations for at-risk populations and settings, include supportive care guidance, and be updated as evidence emerges, and for clinicians to have training and access to recommended treatments to support implementation. Conclusion: Our findings highlight important gaps in COVID-19 CMG development and implementation challenges during a pandemic, particularly affecting at-risk populations and lower resourced settings. This study identifies an urgent need for an improved CMG development framework that is inclusive and adaptable to emerging evidence and considers contextual implementation support, to improve access to evidence-based care globally.