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N Z Med J. 2019 Feb 1;132(1489):81-88.

Addition of explicit guidance to acute pancreatitis guidelines increases compliance with amylase measurement recommendations.

Author information

Masters Student, University of Otago, Christchurch; Medical Trainee, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch.
Professor of Emergency Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch; Emergency Medicine Specialist and Clinical Lead for Hospital HealthPathways, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch.
University of Otago, Christchurch.
Clinical Editor, Hospital HealthPathways, Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch.



Hospital HealthPathways is an online database of local clinical guidelines produced by a dedicated team for use within Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) hospitals. A 'Practice Point'-a bullet point making explicit a recommendation within the body of a clinical guideline-was added to the guideline for acute pancreatitis, instructing users to avoid serial measurements of serum amylase levels. The aim was to explore whether the addition of this Practice Point affected compliance with the amylase measurement recommendations.


The number of serum amylase tests requested for patients admitted with acute pancreatitis by GPs and doctors working in the emergency department, general surgery and other departments was audited using the CDHB's online clinical information system. A data set from a six-month period ending three months prior to the addition of the Practice Point, collected for a previous study, was used with the author's permission as a control group. A new data set from a six-month period starting three months after the addition of the Practice Point formed the experimental group.


Compliance rose by 13% after the addition of the Practice Point. Before the Practice Point was added to the guideline, 82 of 126 total patients (65%) had amylase measured only once, on admission, in compliance with the Hospital HealthPathway guideline. After the addition of the Practice Point, 142 of 182 patients (78%) had one measurement of amylase. This improvement was seen where patients were referred directly by their GP to the general surgical teams and patients managed by other specialties. Variation in compliance seen over the six-month experimental group period was significant, but did not show a clear trend of either improvement or decay in compliance.


This supports the hypothesis that the simple intervention of clarifying a key point within a clinical guideline can have a significant positive effect on compliance. This is an important consideration for guideline authors and institutions publishing clinical guidelines, as poor compliance by clinicians is reported in studies. The intervention in this study is a simple change for guidelines based online, and the significant effect could contribute to improvement in patient-centred, financial and clinical domains.


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