Objectives: The overall objective of this article was to review the theoretical and conceptual dimensions of how the implementation of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) is likely to affect treatment costs.
Methods: An important limitation of the extant literature on the cost effects of CPGs is that the main focus has been on clinical adaptation. We submit that the process innovation aspects of CPGs require changes in both clinical and organizational dimensions. We identify five organizational factors that are likely to affect the relationship between CPGs and total treatment costs: implementation, coordination, learning, human resources, and information. We review the literature supporting each of these factors.
Results: The net organizational effects of CPGs on costs depends on whether the cost-reducing properties of coordination, learning, and human resource management offset potential cost increases due to implementation and information management.
Conclusions: Studies of the cost effects of clinical practice guidelines should attempt to measure, to the extent possible, the effects of each of these clinical and organizational factors.