gms | German Medical Science

G-I-N Conference 2012

Guidelines International Network

22.08 - 25.08.2012, Berlin

Too early or too late: updating guidelines within a large guideline program for general practice

Meeting Abstract

Search Medline for

  • J. Burgers - Dutch College of General Practitioners, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • T. Wiersma - Dutch College of General Practitioners, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Guidelines International Network. G-I-N Conference 2012. Berlin, 22.-25.08.2012. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2012. DocP038

doi: 10.3205/12gin150, urn:nbn:de:0183-12gin1504

Published: July 10, 2012

© 2012 Burgers et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Background:Since 1989, the Dutch College of General Practitioners has produced more than 100 guidelines covering 80 percent of the reasons for encountering in general practice. Keeping these guidelines up to date is a real challenge.

Objectives:To describe the mean age and update time of the guidelines and to explain potential differences between guidelines.

Methods:We calculated the age and update time of the guidelines by extracting publication dates of the original versions and subsequent updates in issues of the Dutch scientific journal for general practice from 1989 to 2012.

Results:In total, 102 original versions of guidelines have been published. The mean age of the current set of valid guidelines (n=90) is 5.2 year. All guidelines produced before 2006 (n=83), except two, have been updated at least once. The mean update time was 8.2 year, ranging from 1.4 to 15.5 year. The update time seems to be related to the topic and to the prevalence of conditions addressed in the guideline.

Discussion:There is consensus that the ideal update time of guidelines should be no longer than five years. Within large guideline programs, however, this is difficult to realize. International exchange of evidence summaries might speed up the update time.

Implications for guideline developers/users:It is challenging to balance the production of new guidelines and updating existing guidelines. As staff time is limited, prioritization is necessary based on assessment of needs among the target users and new developments.