Clinical practice guidelines are one of the tools available to improve the quality of health care. However, it may be difficult for countries to develop their own national guidelines “from scratch” because of limitations in time, expertise, and financial resources. The Estonian Health Insurance Fund (EHIF), in collaboration with other stakeholders, has launched a national effort to develop and implement evidence-based clinical practice guidelines aimed at improving the quality of care. Although the first EHIF handbook for preparing guidelines was published in 2004, there has been wide variation in the format and quality of guidelines prepared by medical specialty societies, EHIF, and other organizations in Estonia. An additional challenge to guideline development in Estonia is that it is a country with limited human resources. Therefore, revision of the Estonian guideline process was aimed at developing an efficient method for adapting current high-quality guidelines to the Estonian setting without compromising their quality. In 2010, a comprehensive assessment of guideline development in Estonia was made by the World Health Organization, EHIF, the Medical Faculty at the University of Tartu, and selected national and international experts in an effort to streamline and harmonize the principles and processes of guideline development in Estonia. This study summarizes the evaluation of and revisions to the process. Estonia has made substantial changes in its processes of clinical practice guideline development and implementation as part of an overall program aiming for systematic quality improvement in health care. This experience may be relevant to other small or resource-limited countries.
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Published online: September 12, 2012
Accepted: July 23, 2012
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