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What is "Best Practice" in Health Care? State of the Art and Perspectives in Improving the Effectiveness and Efficiency of the European Health Care Systems

Perleth M, Jakubowski E, Busse R

Health Policy 56(3): 235-250





A framework for the classification of information on maintaining or improving effectiveness and efficiency in health care systems is proposed. Activities, disciplines and methods that are available to identify, implement and monitor the available evidence in health care are called 'best practice'. We reviewed the literature in order to (1) establish a definition for 'best practice' in the health sector, (2) develop a framework to classify relevant information, and (3) synthesise the literature on activities, disciplines and methods pertinent to the concept. Health care, public health activities and health policy should be advised by the best available evidence. Currently, the concept can be broken down into three activities (Health Technology Assessment (HTA), Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM), Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPGs)) by which evidence is synthesised either as an evidence base (EBM and most HTA) or in the form of recommendations (CPGs and some HTA) for different decision purposes in health care. These activities gain input mainly through four disciplines: clinical research, clinical epidemiology, health economics and health services research. The different disciplines are related to each other in three 'domains': (a) input, (b) dissemination/implementation and (c) monitoring/outcome. These provide evidence on (a) the (potential) effects of health care interventions and policies; (b) on ways to implement them; and (c) on ways to monitor their actual outcome. None of these separate approaches and activities exclusively forms a successful and all-embracing strategy to ascertain 'best practice'. A collective approach in the management of information is expected to add value to individual efforts. Resources should be devoted to increase quality and quantity of both primary and secondary research as well as the establishment of networks to synthesise, disseminate, implement and monitor 'best practice'.

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